AUSTIN (KXAN) — Flu season is starting to take off in Central Texas. Austin Public Health says the number of confirmed cases jumped exponentially from the first week in October to the last week.
Hospitals all over Travis and Williamson Counties are seeing patients come in with flu-like symptoms.
“There has been a spike,” said Seton Williamson Physician Dr. Brandon Browne. “Personally I’m seeing eight to 10 people with the flu or flu-like illness.”
Dr. Browne says that number is based on an 8-hour shift rotation. The majority of his patients have not received the flu vaccination.
“About 75 percent of them have been the Type B flu,” said Dr. Browne.
Type B is the strain that’s going around. It’s less severe than strain A, but it still comes with respitatory and gastrointestinal issues. Dr. Browne says this year’s flu shot is effective in preventing Type B.
“A lot of people will tell you, ‘Doc, I got the flu shot, but I still got the flu shot last year,” said Dr. Browne.
Even if they didn’t get the exact strain in the vaccine, then the chances of getting life-threatening complications are slim. It does take time for the vaccination to take effect; about two weeks.
Dr. Browne says many people aren’t thinking of getting the vaccine this early, but because flu season is already hitting, you should.
Mark Escott with the City of Austin’s Public Health Department says this year’s flu season is tracking the same as years prior, but what doctors don’t know is how severe this season could get.
“We have seen a significant increase between the first week of October and the last week, about 500 percent increase in the flus that have been diagnosed.” said Mark Escott. “It’s the time to get the flu shot to protect yourself as well as family members from getting the flu.”
Escott says this year, Australia experienced a bad outbreak, which gives health officials some concern that we may see a higher than normal flu load this year in the U.S.
Doctors say being outside when it’s cold doesn’t increase your chance of getting sick, but the fact that you spend more time inside when it’s cold likely plays a role. You’re more exposed to others and surrounded by germs.
Austin Public Health offers free and low-cost flu shots at clinics in North and South Austin.