Local health professionals are emphasizing the flu shot and good hygiene to prevent the possibility of catching the flu virus. The Tyler-Longview area has been ranked fifth in the nation for its amount of flu activity so far.
The ranking comes from the annual Walgreens Flu Index. The study provides information based on retail prescription data for antiviral medications used to treat the flu across Walgreens pharmacies.
Hermes Ortiz, pharmacist and pharmacy manager at the Walgreens in Jacksonville, said he has seen a good amount of demand for flu shots so far.
“Each flu season is unpredictable. The flu shot is the best defense against influenza,” Ortiz said.
Most common flu symptoms are fever, sore throat, chills and fatigue. Ortiz recommends that people go to the doctor once they see symptoms.
“It’s imperative for people to take preventative measures,” he said. Ortiz added in his experience most insurance providers cover the cost of a flu shot.
Dr. Andrew Bowers, who practices family medicine at the UT Health East Texas Physicians Clinic in Bullard, also encourages people to prepare and think about getting vaccinated.
“The best offense is a good defense,” Bowers said.
The flu vaccine contains a strain of the dead virus and the immune system is able to prepare the body before a potential infection, he said.
“No vaccine is 100 percent effective,” Bowers said. “All you’re doing is giving your immune system the answers before it takes the test.”
Bowers said the amount of flu cases tends to vary from each season. Colder months are often more active compared to the other parts of the flu season, which runs from October to March.
The flu is a virus so it can mutate from year to year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tries to see what the most effective strain for the vaccine is for each season, Bowers said.
It can take two weeks for the flu vaccine to go into effect. Prevention methods include coughing into your arm and washing hands with soap or at least using hand sanitizer, Bowers said.
Rebecca Shipley, a family nurse practitioner at Christus Trinity Mother Frances Herrington-Ornelas Health Park, said the flu shot is a great way to prevent more common strains of the virus.
“It’s just reducing the overall number of flu cases,” Shipley said.
If someone gets the flu, they should be seen by a doctor and try to isolate themselves as much as possible to eliminate the potential spread of the virus.
Going to a doctor earlier will reduce chances of having secondary complications, such as pneumonia. Medicines slow down the replication of the flu virus, Bowers said.
Flu patients should stay well-hydrated and take medications for symptom-based treatments as they wait to get over the virus, Shipley said.
She also notes that the following groups are more susceptible to complications: young children, elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
She said her flu cases have been fairly light so far.
“It really looks to just be getting started,” Shipley said. “It’s really difficult to get away from the flu.”