With peak months of influenza (flu) season still ahead, CommUnityCare is reporting an uptick in flu activity over the same period last year. From Oct. 1 to Dec. 3 more than 700 patients have been diagnosed with the flu.
The increase mirrors what’s happening across the United States, as seasonal flu activity has been elevated for five weeks and continues to increase over last year’s (2018-2019) cases; A total of 10 influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported to the Center for Disease Control (CDC); and Texas is documenting widespread flu activity.
Last year was the longest flu season in a decade, ramping up in November 2018 peaking in February 2019. Based on trends so far, this year’s flu season is expected to be longer and more widespread. Physicians are urging everyone six months and older to get a flu vaccine as soon as possible. “The vaccine needs about two weeks to become effective,” said Dr. Alan Schalscha, Chief Medical Officer for CommUnityCare Health Centers. “But after that time the vaccine helps you create protective antibodies against the flu and reduces the severity of flu symptoms if you catch it.”
This year CommUnityCare has seen an increase in flu cases about six weeks earlier than the last flu season. Of the flu cases CommUnityCare has diagnosed, only 13% of patients had received a vaccine this flu season.
Help for the Uninsured
Central Health and its clinic partner CommUnityCare remind Travis County residents that lack of insurance should never be a barrier to seeking care.
“If someone has flu symptoms but doesn’t have insurance, they can still come to a CommUnityCare clinic and be seen,” said Jaeson Fournier, CommUnityCare CEO. “We have two walk-in clinics – no appointment needed, and pediatric patients can visit any Carousel location without an appointment.” CommUnityCare Hancock (1000 E. 41st Street, Ste. 925) and CommUnityCare Southeast Health & Wellness (2901 Montopolis Dr.) are designed to deliver same-day care.
In addition to CommUnityCare clinics, Central Health Medical Access Program (MAP) members can also visit 19 RediClinics at select H-E-B and H-E-B plus! Stores in Austin, and FastMed Urgent Care clinics throughout Travis County. Both FastMed Urgent Care and RediClinics are open seven days a week, with extended evening hours on weekdays.
“If someone in Travis County gets the flu, the last thing they should worry about is whether they can afford to see a doctor, “ said Mike Geeslin, President and CEO of Central Health. “People in our Medical Access Program should know help is available.”
To find the nearest RediClinic or FastMed, MAP clients should visit www.medicalaccessprogram.net. To find the nearest CommUnityCare Health Center, visit http://communitycaretx.org/locations
Do You Have Symptoms?
Common flu symptoms include, fever, chills, fatigue, body aches, cough, shortness of breath and sore throat.
Preventing the Spread of the Flu
Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently and after you cough, sneeze or blow your nose.
Stay home if you are sick and stay away from the very young, very old or very sick people if possible to reduce the risk of passing the flu on to them.
Keep your hands away from your nose and mouth – if you touch your face you may help germs get inside.
Cover your cough with your elbow or a handkerchief so you don’t spread the flu or other viruses to others.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website has information about the flu and flu vaccine. Visit www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/different-flu-vaccines.htmto learn more.