Texas hotbed for flu in past month; Case spike drains pediatric Tamiflu
BY KENNETH DEAN
For many East Texans the holidays have been celebrated in bed as they battled the flu or flu-like illness, and healthcare workers have been bombarded with a bevy of sick patients.
The spike in cases has drained pediatric Tamiflu in Tyler, officials said.
The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta states Texas has been a hotbed for influenza over the past month, with confirmed cases of flu in Gregg, Henderson, Nacogdoches, Rusk, Smith, Upshur and Wood counties.
John Moore, spokesman for Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals and Clinics, said lab personnel at Mother Frances Hospital said 25 percent of the cases of suspected flu are being confirmed by testing.
"The lab says that currently one out of four suspected cases on average are testing positive for actual flu cases," he said.
Moore said that on Sunday, 40 cases were tested, and 10 came back positive for flu. Out of those 10 cases, nine were Influenza A strain and one was Influenza B strain.
"That was the most recent snapshot that we had available. He said the day before may have been more and today could be less,."
East Texas Medical Center in Tyler tested 74 patients between Friday and Sunday. Of those, 13 cases came back positive for Type A influenza, hospital officials said.
Both ETMC and Mother Frances said these numbers were just for the hospital emergency room and did not include any of their clinics.
Misty Wooldridge, 33, said she was diagnosed with Influenza A two days after Christmas, and the dreadful illness ended family plans for New Year's and her husband's birthday.
"He spent his 40th birthday taking care of me and the family. He got the flu shot and I did not, because I have never had the flu. I think I'll reconsider that next year, because this is horrible," she said.
George Roberts, director of the Northeast Texas Public Health District, said the CDC and the Texas Department of State Health Services is showing a 22 percent confirmation on suspected cases of influenza.
"We are seeing the same type of those results that the hospitals are seeing statewide according to the CDC," he said.
Roberts said that out of 5,536 suspected cases in the state, 1,229 were positive, for the latest reporting period, which was the 51st week of 2012.
"The CDC has already put out alerts due to the fact they are expecting a higher number of flu cases this year. So it looks like flu season is here and people are super sick. If you haven't gotten a flu shot it's not too late to get one," he said.
Roberts suggested anyone with a fever and symptoms stay home until they are feeling better and to practice good hygiene skills such as washing hands.
Roberts said he has not heard of any deaths in the area related to influenza this year, but the CDC reports eight people died last week as a result of the flu.
Brad Martin, pharmacist at Kinsey's Pharmacy, said the flu season has struck hard and left many pharmacies in the area without much-needed medications.
"I think we might be the last pharmacy in the area with the pediatric Tamiflu, and we are down to about five bottles. I doubt that will last through the day, but we can start compounding," he said.
• and Moore both said pharmacies and doctor's offices are seeing an increased number of patients with upper respiratory and sinus infections.
Martin said that besides the Tamiflu, other drugs such as antibiotics such as azithromycin are flying off the shelves.
"We have seen a lot of people coming in with scripts for Z packs (azithromycin) and other antibiotics for sinus infections," he said.
Moore said doctors at his hospital said they were seeing a lot of patients with sinus infections that needed medicine, but at the same time, they were exposing themselves to the flu.
"If you have a fever, then you probably need to go to the doctor. If you don't, but you have a sinus infection, then try to call your doctor for possible alternative treatment. Going to the clinic may be exposing yourself to the flu if you don't already have it," Moore said.