Athens Review, Athens, Texas

January 3, 2013

Unwelcome visitor

Flu season hits area hard, but getting vaccine can still help

Kathi Nailling
Athens Daily Review

Athens — Does everyone around seem sick?

Flu season has arrived, and with a vengeance. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu season normally peaks in January and February.

The 2012-2013 flu season hit relatively early compared to past years, and it could get worse. CDC officials say there is plenty of influenza vaccine still available for those who have not been vaccinated.

Emergency rooms at East Texas Medical Center in Athens and Gun Barrel City are seeing their fair share of patients — not merely from the flu, alone, but also for upper respiratory infections including COPD, congestive heart failure and pneumonia.

Mary Pruitt, a registered nurse who is the Infectious Disease Preventionist at ETMC Athens, said, “People need to get a flu shot. It’s still not too late. Also if you have flu symptoms, stay home. The flu is a droplet virus and will die within 24 hours.”

The flu can be worse in children under six and the elderly over 65.

Pruitt said people may not have symptoms for two days before they actually get the flu. “It’s important that you wash your hands using sanitizer and keep your hands away from your face,” Pruitt said.

Gibson’s Pharmacy owner and pharmacist Bruce Kocian said flu vaccine is about 85 percent effective and encouraged people to get the shot.

Disciples Clinic, a low-cost health care clinic in Athens, started vaccinations against the flu early and has not seen many cases. The clinic’s medical director, Dr. Gary Williamson, said doctors there have administered many flu shots in an effort to be proactive.

Superstitions about the vaccine, he said, are just that.

“It’s important people know the vaccine does not make you sick,” Williamson said. “That is just a myth. The modern-day vaccine cannot make you sick.”

Williams said the clinic charges $10 to its patients for flu shots.

Pharmacies in Athens and the Cedar Creek Lake area appear to have a plentiful supply of flu vaccine available.