Flu cases double in just one week at an Austin area clinic

Austin

(AUSTIN) KXAN — Doctors at Austin Regional Clinic saw the number of positive flu tests double in just one week. 

Austin Regional Clinic treats about a half a million people around Central Texas. 

During the week of January 6 through January 12, the clinic tested 986 people for the flu and found 220 positive cases.

The number of positive flu tests increased to 431 just a week later between January 13 and January 19 when they tested 1,321 people. 

“Flu, a lot of times, will spike in January right after the holidays,” said Dr. Christopher Chang, Family Medicine Doctor at Austin Regional Clinic. “We think the reason is that after the holidays, lot of people are traveling, getting together with families. You’re around more kids, so the exposure goes up.”

Registered Nurse Katie Castle said she knows exactly how her flu patients feel.

“For me, it just started with a ittle tickle in your throat,” she said.

Castle had the flu last year. “I was one of those flu patients, and it was horrible. It was a good seven days where I felt like I was completely drained of my energy.”

Castle does get the flu shot every year. 

“Actually getting the flu three times out of those 10 years, I’m not going to complain,” she said. 

Austin’s Public Health Director Dr. Philip Huang said the city collects data from other hospitals and medical providers in the area. Those numbers also indicate the flu activity is on the rise. 

So far, the good news is this year’s flu season isn’t as bad as last year’s. 

“We try to match the flu vaccine for the year to the most likely flu strains we’ll see,” Chang said. “It does seem like this year, the flu vaccine is a good match for the strains for the flu that are most common.”

That doesn’t mean, however, you can let your guard down.

Chang said there’s no way to tell when this year’s flu season will peak, and he believes the number of cases will continue to increase.

“Sometimes, that’s early,” he explained. “Might in January. Sometimes might be later, March or sometimes even April or May if it’s a late season.”

Treatment and prevention

Many people are prescribed Tamiflu when they test positive for the flu virus, but Dr. Chang said you should keep in mind Tamiflu is effective only in the first 48 hours.

“It really targets that early stage of infection,” he said. “After that point, the flu virus, it’s in your system. It’s already doing what it’s going to do. Tamiflu isn’t going to help block that infection from hitting your system.”

He said if more people who don’t need the medicine keep taking Tamiflu, the virus might evolve and develop resistance.

“Every year, the flu virus changes, so every time that we use Tamiflu in somebody who doesn’t really need it, there’s chance it’ll increase the risk of resistance from future flu cases,” Chang said.

As this year’s flu season progresses, doctors said this is the time to take all the precuations.

Cover your cough. Stay home if you’re sick, and wash your hands frequently.

“I keep hand sanitizer with me everywhere, and I really recommend people do that because you don’t realize how many things you touch, or how many things other people touch,” Castle said.

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