Residents suffering from flu-like symptoms can take solace they’re not alone after Hays County officials estimated more than 300 confirmed cases of the virus at the end of December.
Hays County Local Health Department Epidemiologist Eric Schneider said flu season is technically September through April. However, the medical community has seen an uptick in positive flu cases in Hays County since last year.
In December 2016, only 15 cases of the flu were reported in Hays County, according to a press release. As of the end of December 2017, 304 people were reportedly sick with the flu.
Schneider said the rise in positive flu cases could be attributed to better reporting on the physicians’ part.
Schneider said influenza is a very common viral infection, that for most people, just causes fatigue, body aches, a low-grade fever and other minor symptoms for a few days. However, the virus can be fatal to the elderly, the very young and the immune-compromised.
Schneider also said that this year happens to be the 100-year anniversary of the Spanish Flu Pandemic that killed 20 to 50 million people worldwide.
Even though Schneider said the flu back then was very different from today’s flu virus, it still kills 250,000 people every year worldwide.
Dr. Michael de Lota, family medicine physician at ARC Kyle Plum Creek, said he believed the spike in cases stems from fewer people getting the flu vaccine.
De Lota also attributed the spike in positive flu cases in Hays County to the overall growth in the area.
De Lota said there are varying reasons why patients don’t get the vaccine. One factor is invincibility, where people never had the flu or gotten a flu shot, which makes them believe they don’t need one. Another factor is a fear of getting the flu from the vaccine.
People getting the flu from the vaccine is a misconception, de Lota said.
When medical personnel give the flu vaccine to a patient, they inform them that they may feel soreness in their arm or general body aches and even a low-grade fever in response to it.
These are signs that a person’s body is building up an immunity to the foreign pathogen. De Lota said feeling vaccine reactions for a few days is nothing compared to getting the actual flu.
“The virus we’re giving them is dead, it’s virtually impossible to get the flu from a vaccine,” de Lota said.
Schneider said the key to surviving the flu season without getting ill is to wash hands often, get the flu vaccine and exercise isolation from the public when you are sick with the flu.
“It’s never too late to get the flu shot, since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” de Lota said.