Doc­tors: Still time to get flu vac­cine

Flu

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - A Con­tact Mary Ann Roser at 445-3619. Con­tact Melissa Taboada at 445-3620. Twit­ter: @melis­sa­taboada

and RSV sea­son, Checchia and oth­ers said. But it’s too early to be sure, and some lo­ca­tions aren’t ex­pe­ri­enc­ing an uptick. Spokes­women for Austin Di­ag­nos­tic Clinic and St. David’s Health­Care fa­cil­i­ties said they haven’t seen much flu or RSV.

On Mon­day, the U.S. Cen­ters for Disease Con­trol and Preven­tion said Texas was one of five states with higher-thannor­mal flu cases for this time of year.

RSV and flu are com­mon, easy-to-spread ill­nesses. Both fea­ture cold-like symp­toms, such as a cough and runny nose, but flu is distin­guished by body aches, chills, nau­sea and of­ten a fever. Al­most ev­ery child con­tracts RSV by age 2, and in adult­hood, it mim­ics the com­mon cold.

While most chil­dren and adults re­cover with­out com­pli­ca­tions, flu is hard­est on el­derly peo­ple and ba­bies, while RSV poses the great­est risk to pre­ma­ture in­fants and very young chil­dren with heart, lung or im­mune dis­or­ders.

Ev­ery year, about 125,000 U.S. in­fants are hos­pi­tal­ized with RSV and about 1 per­cent die, Checchia said. For high-risk chil­dren, how­ever, the death rate can be 35 per­cent, he said.

This year’s flu vac­cine is highly ef­fec­tive in guard­ing against the three flu strains that are cir­cu­lat­ing, but there is no com­mon vac­cine for RSV. Chil­dren at risk for se­ri­ous ill­ness from RSV can re­ceive a monthly in­jec­tion of the drug palivizumab dur­ing the sea­son.

The De­part­ment of State Health Ser­vices web­site re­ports that the flu sea­son started Sept. 30 in Texas. RSV has been climb­ing since early Oc­to­ber. Flu sea­son typ­i­cally runs from Oc­to­ber to May, while RSV sea­son usu­ally is Novem­ber through March, the CDC said.

“Anec­do­tally, we’ve heard from providers in Galve­ston and Hous­ton that the RSV sea­son came early there, and the ill­ness has been more se­vere in terms of the num­ber of hos­pi­tal­iza­tions and nec­es­sary treat­ments,” Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the state health de­part­ment, wrote in an email. “We haven’t heard about an in­creased sever­ity of ill­ness here.”

In Novem­ber, Dell Chil­dren’s staff saw nearly 9,000 chil­dren with res­pi­ra­tory ill­nesses, close to the num­ber seen in Novem­ber 2009, when the H1N1 swine flu was spread­ing, Crocker said. Nei­ther he nor the Austin/ Travis County Health and Hu­man Ser­vices De­part­ment knew of any deaths so far this sea­son.

Austin Re­gional Clinic also is see­ing more flu and RSV cases for this time of year, spokes­woman Lynda Shan­blum said.

“It’s not too late to get im­mu­nized” against flu, said Dr. Jean Peters-Do with Texas Med­Clinic, where flu cases also are up.

Checchia agreed, adding: “First and fore­most, the best way to avoid ei­ther of th­ese is dili­gent hand wash­ing.” op­po­nents and sup­port­ers, in­clud­ing fam­i­lies who have cho­sen to send their chil­dren to IDEA Al­lan, which opened in Au­gust and serves 544 stu­dents in kinder­garten through sec­ond grades and in sixth grade.

“We have to find a way to co-ex­ist” with char­ters, said Trustee Lori Moya. “I don’t think it’s fair for us to make a com­pro­mise, with­out ask­ing what they (the par­ents of IDEA stu­dents) want for their chil­dren.”

In other ac­tion that puts the brakes on an­other ad­min­is­tra­tion plan, trustees di­rected Carstarphen to re­move the pro­posed all-boys school from a list of fa­cil­ity rec­om­men­da­tions the board will con­sider Dec. 17.

Weeks ago, the board ap­peared likely to es­tab­lish the school at the Alternative Learn­ing Cen­ter. The Galve­ston-based Moody Foun­da­tion, which pro­vides grants for ed­u­ca­tion and com­mu­nity devel­op­ment, pre­vi­ously do­nated $4.6 mil­lion for plan­ning the school.

But it would still cost more than $20 mil­lion to retro­fit the build­ing, money that would prob­a­bly come from bonds. At least two new board mem­bers have ques­tioned the cost.

School board Pres­i­dent Vince Tor­res, who was first elected to the board in 2006, said since the board ap­peared to be split on the is­sue, it should de­fer ac­tion for now. “There’s not strong enough sup­port,” he said.

Ralph barrera / amer­i­can-states­man

In Novem­ber, Dell Chil­dren’s Med­i­cal Cen­ter saw nearly 9,000 chil­dren with res­pi­ra­tory ill­nesses, said Dr. Pat Crocker, emer­gency ser­vices chief.

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