URHCS Seeing Noticable Difference with This Year's Flu Victims

- Since November 1st United Regional has treated more than 80 people for flu and flu-like illnesses.

The increase in flu cases is sparking concern among hospital and Wichita Falls health officials.

United Regional officials say January is typically when there's an increase in flu cases in the Wichita Falls area. That happened two months earlier this flu season. And, officials say that's not the only noticeable thing that's setting this flu season apart from the others.

"Sniffles, coughing.  It feels like the flu and I feel terrible right now , let me tell you."

Ike Gibbs is not alone. The flu is making United Regional's emergency room busy. In fact, one hospital administrator says this flu season is worse than last year's.

"We've admitted more patients and the patients that are being admitted in general are a little sicker this year than in previous years.  Some are sick enough to develop what we call respiratory failure and require admission to the critical care unit," says Dr. Scott Hoyer, vice president of quality and chief medical officer at United Regional Health Care System.

Doctors also say the age of patients has been a big concern.

"Typically, patients who get this ill with flu tend to be over the age of 65.  This year we're seeing patients more in the range of 35 to 55 age range," Dr. Hoyer says.

The flu is being blamed for more than half a dozen deaths in Texas since Thanksgiving and officials say it's a serious issue that's expected to get worse.

"We do expect that to go up with kids going back to school and kids going back to work.  The most thing that people can remember is if you're ill stay home.  If your kids are sick then keep them at home," says Lou Kreidler, director of health at Wichita Falls - Wichita County Public Health District.

Although officials say frequent hand washing, covering your coughs and sneezes and staying home when you feel sick are all good at reducing the spread of the virus, they there is something better.

"We're very serious about recommending people get an influenza vaccination that is the best way to prevent getting the illness," adds Dr. Hoyer.

Flu shots are still available at doctor's offices, pharmacies, clinics and the health department.

And while getting vaccinated may not prevent you from getting the flu doctors say it is effective in reducing the severity of the illness.

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