Representatives from the East Texas Medical Center, Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals, UT Health Northeast, Good Shepherd Medical Center and the Northeast Texas Public Health District held a forum Monday addressing flu concerns.
As the hospital representatives shared their flu-related statistics it became clear how many people are falling victim to the unusually vicious flu season. Around the area more than 1,000 flu cases have been reported--indicating many more that have gone unreported.
ETMC alone has 8 people who have been admitted with serious flu cases. All the major hospitals are dealing with new cases daily, sometimes to the point of having to send patients to other facilities after filling up emergency facilities.
"It's amazing how many of our patients, despite hearing the concern about vaccination, still don't get their vaccines," Dr. Jonathan MacClements of the Smith County Health Authority said.
MacClements is worried about the number of people who avoid the flu shot, thinking they're being injected with a live virus. He said there is no live virus in the syringe. And he's urging people to do more to prevent spreading what's already out there.
"Quite honestly if you have any concerns just come on in to the physician," MacClements said. "You know we're really sensitive to the fact that we don't want to over-run our resources. But at the same time we don't want people who may have a high threshold staying at home and then coming in too late.">
"Too late" can happen quickly. Drugs like Tamiflu only work if you start taking them within 48 hours of noticing symptoms.
Doctor Paul McGaha of the Texas Department of State Health Services said most cases this year are H1N1, predominately affecting people between 20 and 50 years old. He said it's possible years of general flu shots for older people have somehow managed to guard against this newer strain.
"although they weren't targeted
toward H1N1, we think there's been some cross-protection with that A-variety through the years," McGaha said.
Dr. Richard Wallace said there's a fine line between scaring the public and letting them know how serious the flu can be.
"The percentage of people who end up being hospitalized and the percentage of people who end up dying is a very small percentage," Wallace said.
Still, he said thinking the flu is minor or something that only happens to others is exactly how it could end up getting out of hand. He recommends wearing inexpensive allergy-type masks when you leave the house while you're sick to keep from spreading the flu.