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H1N1 on rise

The Free Press of Buda, Texas

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If you've contracted the flu recently, you're not alone. Flu cases are on the rise across the country and here in Hays County.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the amount of positive cases of the flu rose from 5.8 percent during the week of Nov. 15 to 24.1 percent the week of Dec. 20.

Texans are feeling the effect of the burgeoning flu season, which normally runs from September through May. Positive flu cases have risen sharply in Texas since the start of October, going from roughly one percent to 30 percent by Dec. 20.

But also on the rise are the cases of the H1N1, or Swine Flu, strain of the virus, which reached pandemic levels in 2009.

Last week saw 915 cases of H1N1 reported nationally by the CDC; 172 of those cases were in Texas. So far, at least five people have died in Texas due to H1N1.

There have been no deaths related to the H1N1 strain in Hays County, according to Mike Jones, the county's emergency preparedness coordinator.

However, the trend of increasing flu cases is reaching national and state levels. Eleven cases of the flu were detected in Hays County in November. So far in December, that number rose to 256.

While the rise in cases is apparent, Jones says it is not an alarming figure. The figures reflect the normal rise of the flu season, which peaks in February.

Jones said most people contract the general, Influenza A, strain of the flu. Like all flu strains, it is transferred via respiratory droplets (coughing, sneezing). However, with the peak of the flu season on the horizon, Jones encourages several steps to ensure citizens avoid the flu.

Obtaining a flu shot is one of the best ways to avoid becoming ill. He says it's not too late to get a vaccine and encourages citizens to get one immediately. Jones said it takes two weeks for the vaccine to take effect.

Additional measures include regularly cleaning and sanitizing hands and work spaces. Wiping off a phone, or desk with anti-bacterial wipes is one method Jones encouraged. Using sanitizing wipes when using shopping carts or handrails is another.

Above all, prevention is the key toward staving off the flu, especially for the very young and those with compromised immune systems.

" [Flu prevention] will speak volumes to your health, especially for those who have lowered immune systems and preexisting conditions, such as diabetes," Jones said. "Those factors can exacerbate the flu."

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Original Publication Date: January 1, 2014

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