Local Hospitals See Huge Increase In Flu Cases

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The St.Joseph's Health System reports there have been over 1300 flu cases reported from October 2012 to January 2013 by doctors' offices, emergency rooms and hospitals in the Brazos Valley compared to only ten cases reported during previous season.

The number of cases could actually be higher because cases are voluntarily reported by doctors, clinics and hospitals. And there are also cases that are not reported due people not seeking medical care.

Health experts in the Brazos Valley say a possible new strain of the virus may be part of the reason for the spike in reported cases.

Jake and Julie Shaddox made a visit to St. Joseph's Express Urgent Care.

Jake has been home from school with what his mom thinks is the flu.
While at the office, a nurse used a cotton swab to test if he had the flu. And results showed despite receiving the flu mist, Jake was still infected with the virus.

Dr. Robert Howard with St. Joseph's Express Urgent Care has seen a number of people with the flu.

"In the flu vaccines this year is what we saw last year and the year before, but the flu virus mutates so the prevalent strain that we see this year is probably not in the vaccine," said Dr. Robert Howard.

Experts say Influenza A and B are on the rise.

Because of the upward trend in flu cases, the Brazos County Health Department encourages anyone six months and older to get vaccinated.

"There's a common belief that if I've waited this long to get my vaccine it's too late I've been exposed, but that's not the case, so even though its January and we're in a new year and if you have not gotten your flu vaccine it is never too late to get that vaccine," said Julie Anderson.

Julie Anderson with the Health Department says self-protection is key.

"The flu shot is not seen as a treatment to the condition that you already have, but you do need to get it once you're well, to protect you from the other strains that we're seeing," said Anderson.

To reduce the spread of the virus, Mike Paulus with the Health Department suggests staying at home instead of going to school or work when sick.

Receiving a flu shot does protect against most flu viruses. Although there is no 100 percent guarantee against catching the flu, experts say it will reduce the severity of the virus.

The flu vaccine is available at local pharmacies, the Brazos County Health Department, along with doctors' offices and hospitals in the area.