Spread Cheer, Not the Flu

Flu is on the rise across Greater Houston, with multiple Memorial Hermann hospitals and Memorial Hermann Medical Group clinics reporting a recent increase in diagnosed cases of influenza. Not only is Texas reporting high flu activity, more people are also visiting the physician’s office with influenza-like illnesses now than at the same time during the last two flu seasons, according to the most recent Texas Department of Health Services report . With the holidays upon us, physicians affiliated with Memorial Hermann Health System are encouraging people to take steps to help prevent the spread of this contagious disease.

“People will begin gathering with friends and family over the next few days, or perhaps going out to bustling shopping centers for last-minute Christmas shopping, and the last thing you want to do is get sick, or get someone else sick. It’s very important that people take steps to protect themselves and others,” says Patrick Hayes, M.D., a family medicine physician with Memorial Hermann Medical Group – Memorial City.

Dr. Hayes reminds people that good hygiene practices – including regular handwashing and coughing and sneezing into your sleeve – can help prevent the spread of the flu and other illnesses. He also encourages people not to share food or drink from the same cup.

“If you think you have the flu, or have been diagnosed with the flu, stay home. While you may feel bad about canceling on your plans, it’s better to stay home than to spread the flu,” says Dr. Hayes.

Among the influenza viruses in circulation, influenza A, is the predominant one. This is a more dangerous strain linked to a higher rate of hospitalizations and deaths, especially among those with weakened immune systems, as well as the very young and the elderly.  Flu season can last through May, and so Dr. Hayes says there is still plenty of time to get the flu vaccine.

“While it takes about 14 days for the vaccination to provide protection from the flu, there are still many more months of flu season ahead. Additionally, even if you were to get the flu, those who’ve received the vaccine report lessened impact from the virus,” says Dr. Hayes.

Those who are interested in receiving the flu vaccine should speak with their primary care doctor or contact RediClinic, which is addliated with Memorial Hermann. RediClinic locations will continue to offer flu shots across the Greater Houston area while supplies are available.

Those experiencing flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, body aches and fatigue are urged to seek treatment from their primary care physician as soon as possible. Antiviral medications can help lessen the symptoms and shorten the length of an illness if administered early enough. Appointments are available with Memorial Hermann Medical Group physicians throughout the Greater Houston region. For those without a primary care physician, or unable to get an appointment,  Memorial Hermann Urgent Care locations see patients from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week, without an appointment.

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Tashika Varma