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Texas is seeing a spike in flu cases. Health experts say to get your flu shot now

 Expecting a busier flu activity this season, health experts are encouraging people to get the flu vaccine now.
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Expecting a busier flu activity this season, health experts are encouraging people to get the flu vaccine now.

The CDC late last month reported Texas and New York have seen the high number of flu cases this season, so far. KERA’s Sam Baker talked about this with Dr. Donna Casey, an internist with Texas Health Dallas.

What kind of activity are we seeing with flu already? 

We're seeing quite a few cases. We've seen parents with kids. Their kids have the flu and then the parents have the flu. We've had quite a few older folks come with the flu and most people are not that sick. They have chills, a little bit of diarrhea, and nausea. But they're just worried now after this whole COVID scare. Everybody's now on high alert when they're sick.

Why the increase in flu activity this year? Because I remember during the pandemic, flu had all but disappeared.

Right. I'm not exactly sure. But I do know that once we kind of released the COVID gates open, people were so anxious to socialize, we let our guard down because we were so excited to finally have some freedom.

The symptoms are similar between the two. So, how do you know whether to get tested for COVID or flu? 

We can now test for both at the same time, especially in children. The pediatricians are doing this rapidly because they've been getting busy the last ten days.

But usually your doctor's office or now, you know, with every single CVS and Walgreens, they all have a small little clinic. There are lots of options. That's the time to get tested and then know what you do have, right?

It’s not just for taking care of you, but taking care of all of us, those around us, because we all know vulnerable family members or friends who we do not want to get sick.

Who can and should get the flu vaccine?

Well, anybody, no matter what your age is if you are vulnerable at all.

It's interesting, we used to think the vulnerable population was the elderly, HIV, diabetes, and people on chemotherapy. But we've learned a lot from COVID people that are vulnerable.

Also, people with major depressive disorder, people who don't sleep, people who are very anxious, or people who have major stressors in their lives are much more vulnerable to being infected and having serious illnesses.

So we recommend it to everybody. Anybody with lung disease, anybody who smokes, anybody who is anyway immunocompromised should get the flu vaccine.

We're talking flu shots at the same time the new bivalent booster for COVID Omicron is also being encouraged. Should that affect your decision when or if to get one or the other?

They have a combination flu and COVID vaccine.

However, for my immunocompromised patients, I've asked them to get the vaccine separately a few weeks apart, because that gives your body a better time to form an immunity.

And if you have too much at once, we may not get the immune response we want for both vaccines.

But in general, should people get the shots separately or is it okay to do it at the same time?

It's OK to do it at the same time, but if you have any immunocompromised issues, I would do them separately. But I would start now because we're seeing such a surge in flu.

How long does it take for the flu vaccine to become effective?

Depending on your immune response in some people two weeks in, some people up to five days.

That's another reason, I guess, that you should not hesitate since it takes a while before it takes effect.

Yes. And now we have also homecomings and Halloween coming up. We have Thanksgiving coming up and Christmas, which is when we have notoriously seen these surges in everything.

People socialize, they get into closed spaces with each other and therefore we see more infectious disease spread. I don't want to hammer it home too much, but everyone should get a flu shot now.

Besides the vaccine itself, what are safeguards against spreading or catching the flu?

If you are immunocompromised, get the vaccine. But I would also continue wearing a mask. If you are sick, I would stay home. If you feel like you're getting sick, I would stay home.

And hydration is really important. At least 60 fluid ounces a day, unless you have some restriction or you can't have that if you are sick.

Electrolytes are important. Pedialyte is one of those electrolyte drinks. Even if you're an adult, you can have Pedialyte. And then if you're worried, you're scared, something's wrong. You can't breathe. Well, please go to the hospital.

RESOURCES:

Texas Flu

CDC: Frequently Asked Influenza (Flu) Questions: 2022-2023 Season

Why Getting a Flu Shot Matters for Heart Health

Flu is already here and doctors are bracing for a high number of infections this year

Influenza Vaccine for the 2022-2023 Season

Copyright 2022 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.