Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
Texas is one of four states reported by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with widespread cases of flu and flu-like activity, but it's not too late get vaccinated, according to a local public health official.
“It isn't too late," said Christopher Taylor, Executive Director of Cherokee County Public Health. "Current case reports are showing us that many people who did not get vaccinated are experiencing severe symptoms and some have become hospitalized. A few have died.”
While there have been no confirmed deaths in Cherokee County related to influenza, or influenza-like illness, every Health Service Region in the state has reported laboratory confirmed influenza, he said, adding that the Texas Department of State Health Services reports that the level of influenza intensity.
"We are also seeing confirmed lab reports that the influenza strain H1N1, which last reared itself in 2009, may be spreading," he said.
That said, “part of the reason we're not seeing an even wider spread is that the current vaccine contains the dead H1N1 strain,” Taylor noted, adding that officials believe that it could be that of the deaths and hospitalizations thus far are “people who did not choose to get vaccinated.”
Vaccinations are available at Cherokee County Public Health, which is closed Christmas week but will re-open Dec. 30-31 during regular business hours.
“We also have heard that the vaccine is available at most private provider's offices and at some area pharmacies, (though) we are not expecting, nor currently experiencing a shortage,” he said.
Typical incubation period for influenza ranges from one to four days, often with “abrupt onset of fever, myalgia, sore throat, nonproductive cough and headache,” he said, with severity of illness dependent upon other conditions.
Flu-like illnesses in patients symptomatic of the flu but whose lab reports are inconclusive “have been reported in our region and are behind several known hospitalizations,” he added.
However, “there is certainly no reason to panic, but we are urging extreme caution. We are seeing the current influenza and influenza-like illness hitting harder on adolescents and folks who usually are not as affected,” he said.
Holiday travel and gatherings can pose some challenges, but people can protect themselves by following such simple safety steps as:
• Getting flu shot.
• Make sure to wash your hands for at least twenty seconds under warm water with soap.
• Avoid going to work or school if you know you are ill.
• Contain your cough or sneeze by coughing into the corner of your elbow.
• Most importantly, if one experiences what he believes is the flu or a flu-like illness, he is urged to visit his health care provider.