Flu season is in full swing in Texarkana and across the rest of the country.
"It's widespread currently. We're kind of in the middle of our flu season," said Dr. Matt Young, owner of Texarkana Emergency Center.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is estimating 6 million to 7 million people have been sick with the flu so far this year and between 69,000 and 84,000 have been hospitalized.
So far the illness doesn't seem to be as severe as it was last year.
"Currently we feel that it's not as severe this year as it was last year which means less patients needing to be hospitalized, less patients having untimely deaths or critical illnesses from the flu," Young said.
For people who do get the flu, early intervention can help.
"It's very important if you have any of the symptoms such as fever, cough, runny nose, body aches, chills, fatigue or weakness that you get in to see your provider within 48 hours of the symptoms onset. Then we can prescribe an antiviral and/or make sure it's not another type of illness that needs another treatment such as a bacterial illness that might need antibiotic," Young said.
The flu isn't the only culprit of sickness making the rounds at this time.
"We're seeing a lot of different viral and bacterial infections this time of year. For pediatric patients we watch out for croup a virus that causes a barking-type cough and causes pediatric patients to have shortness of breath and decreased ability to eat and swallow because their throat and airway are inflamed. For the very young we worry about RSV which is a virus that causes predominantly nasal secretions that can cause wheezing and decrease their ability to feed because they are predominantly mouth breathers at that age," he said.
To stop these illnesses from spreading, it's important for people to stay at home when they're ill.
"We want to make sure everybody knows to excuse yourself from social obligations if you have the flu, fever or illness during this time of year. We want to make sure you're not spreading it to those who are vulnerable, the elderly and those who are very young," he said. "And when we say 'social obligations' that means work, school, extracurricular social functions, church or other activities where you'll be in large group and could potentially spread the disease to other people."
Young praised local schools who've made the decision to shut down temporarily to help slow the spread of the flu.
"There are many schools who've been affected that have shut down schools to clean and make sure to disinfect their schools. The flu is spread usually by droplets from sneezing or coughing. It can live on a desk, laptop or telephone for 24 hours—or maybe a little longer—and can be contagious."
It's hoped flu season will wind down soon.
"Right now we know we're in the middle of the flu season. Hopefully soon with this kind of education and schools taking appropriate action, we're on the backside of the middle, but we really won't know for a couple of weeks," Young said.
There's still time to get a flu shot.
"It's never too late. It still takes about two weeks for it it gain full effectiveness but within that two weeks it still does provide some protection. Also it's important to use good strict hand-washing and cleaning," he said.