After a few reported cases of the flu in Hays County in recent weeks, local health care providers are urging citizens to practice healthy habits as winter approaches.
The move for residents to protect themselves from the flu comes as nearly 10,000 Texans died as a result of the virus in 2017, according to state health officials.
Tammy Gray, registered pharmacist (RPh) at Buda Drug Store, said the pharmacy has received a number of prescriptions for Tamiflu, which typically does not occur until later in the flu season.
Flu season typically begins in October and ends in May. In Texas and most areas in the southern U.S., the warmer climate means the virus might not peak until December or January.
“I do believe it’s coming a little early this year, and we’ve already had several patients receive prescriptions for flu treatment,” Gray said. “At this time, it’s too early to determine why, and it’s not rampant.”
Children and the elderly are the most at risk during flu season, and accounted for majority of flu-related deaths in 2017.
Eric Schneider, Epidemiologist for the Hays County Health Department, said receiving the flu shot does not guarantee immunity, but will help provide people with the antibodies to fight the virus off faster.
“It’s common when people get the flu that they assume it’s allergies or a common cold, and before seeking the right medical help, it can morph into something more severe,” Schneider said. “It can be fatal. Last year we saw a handful of flu-related deaths here in Hays County.”
The Center for Disease Control, which recently published its U.S. 2018-2019 Influenza Season report, called for preventative measures citizens can take during this flu season, which will begins in October.
Optimally, vaccination should occur before the onset of influenza activity in a given community, the report said. Additionally, multiple outbreaks can occur in a given community during the same season.
Schneider and Gray cited that practicing good hygiene can help mitigate the spread of the flu, which includes periodically washing hands. Consuming over-the-counter immune system boosters like vitamin C supplements might also help.
“Taking medications for diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, or a variety of diseases can compromise your immune system, which can make you susceptible to the flu,” Gray said. “It’s very important to know that taking medication can affect your immune system. It’s important to get that flu vaccine as soon as you can.”