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Flu cases low, but likely to pick up

Huntsville Item - 1/11/2019

Jan. 11--Flu season is in full swing, and it's only going to pick up from here.

Huntsville has yet to see a widespread influenza outbreak this season, but the most active time of year for positive flu cases is quickly approaching.

"We haven't seen the surge yet," said Sheila Ard, chief nursing officer at Huntsville Memorial Hospital. "It depends on the year and the weather. Last year it was more in January and right after Christmas. As of right now, we've had 29 cases identified since Oct. 1.

"It's a little low right now, but we still expect to see that spike shortly."

According to Dr. Darrel Wells from Independent Clinic of Texas in Huntsville, late January to early February is the most common time of the year for outbreaks locally. Research by the Centers for Disease Control over the past 36 seasons shows that flu activity nationally has "most often peaked in February (15 seasons), followed by December (7 seasons), January (6 seasons) and March (6 seasons)."

The Texas Department of State Health Services had reported 2,184 positive cases in Texas through Dec. 29, which is down from 3,814 during the same period the previous year. Locally, Huntsville Memorial Hospital reported 15 positive cases from the start of December through the first week of January, compared to 116 last season during this stretch.

However, it should be noted that Huntsville experienced a significant outbreak in late December and early January last season, while the area is still awaiting its major surge for the current one.

"Definitely be hand washing, and staying out of large crowds is always a plus when the flu is going around," said Ard of day-to-day precautionary measures that should be taken to prevent falling ill.

Ultimately, though, there is no substitute for protecting oneself via the flu vaccine. Local medical professionals urge the community that it is not too late to get vaccinated.

"The most important thing is to get a flu vaccine," Wells said. "There are various types and your doctor will tell you which one you need. We're expecting a pretty good flu season and it takes about two weeks to become effective."

Flu vaccines are available at clinics and pharmacies throughout Walker County.

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