Community feeling effects of flu virus

News Reporter

With the average influenza season in Texas typically lasting from October to May , San Marcos is already starting to feel the effects of the virus, which is hitting residents harder than in previous
seasons.

Strains of the H1N1 flu are predominantly circulating this season, and experts say effects of the virus are already apparent. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 138 to 145 million doses of the seasonal influenza vaccine were reported to the CDC for distribution in the U.S. Health care professionals in San Marcos agree this flu season will be particularly severe on those who contract
the virus.

“What we saw wasn’t so much a higher incidence of the flu, but the people that had the flu seemed to be sicker,” said Clay DeStefano, administrative director for public relations and marketing at Central Texas Medical Center. “It was a tougher flu, if you will.”

The Student Health Center provided flu shots last fall and in the beginning of this semester, said Emilio Carranco, Student Health Center director. The health center has administered about 1,100 doses of the flu vaccine so far, he said.

The flu vaccine is ordered by hospitals and health departments early in the year based on projected numbers from the year before, DeStefano said. Patients who receive the vaccine are still susceptible to the virus, but the intensity of their symptoms is not as great and they have a lesser chance of catching the flu, he said.

“It’s a preventive measure, and it’s a measure that helps to manage the illness,” DeStefano said.

Physicians are generally in agreement that this year’s flu virus is severe and seems to be affecting healthy young adults more than usual, said Laureen Chernow, Hays County communications specialist.

“In our case, we’re watching it closely. We’re tracking the trend, trying to make sure we are contributing to the solution,” DeStefano said.

Even though younger patients seem to be experiencing harsher effects of the flu, college students still seem to be the least willing to receive the vaccination for the virus, DeStefano said. Students were not a large percentage of the total among those receiving the vaccine at CTMC, he said.

Some students may receive vaccines at their family doctor or pharmacy, so it is difficult to determine what percentage of the student population has been vaccinated, Carranco said.

“With less people vaccinated, more people are vulnerable to infection with the flu and more people can spread the flu,” Carranco said.

Texas State has a contract that guarantees the health center receives the vaccine, which few other universities have, Carranco said. The contract guarantees the Student Health Center the opportunity to order additional vaccines at any time throughout the flu season, even in the unlikely event of national shortages, Carranco said.

The Hays County Local Health Department remains in control of an adequate supply of the vaccination at this time, Chernow said. Most vaccine shortages tend to come from smaller facilities, which in turn do not affect the total supply for San Marcos, she said.

Although the estimates for the number of influenza vaccines has fluctuated this flu season, both Carranco and DeStefano said there does not yet seem to be a shortage in San Marcos.

The Student Health Center has 400 doses of the vaccination, Carranco said. DeStefano said CTMC stated it still has the vaccine in several of its locations to support the community.