FROM STAFF REPORTS

BURNET — This year’s flu season is poised to top the previous two years with the number of cases physicians are treating, but doctors said there are ways people can protect themselves.

Get the flu shot, said Dr. Charles Michael Franz, the medical director at Seton Highland Lakes and a family practitioner.

Franz said the number of cases he’s seeing this year is much higher than what he saw last year, or even the previous year.

“This year, I find it much worse than I found it the last two years,” he said. “We’re seeing about twice as many people as we did a couple of years ago.”

Since Christmas, Frantz said Seton Highland Lakes Medical Center is averaging six patients a day testing positive for the flu. Currently, the most common type is Influenza Type A, he said.

While the test the medical center runs doesn’t subtype for H1N1, Franz said Type A exhibits characteristics of H1N1. Franz said most patients get over the illness after about seven days.

The key to recovery, Franz said, is to see a physician with the first signs of the flu, then stay home and fully recover.

Some symptoms of the flu are chills, body aches, coughing and congestion. Franz said the medical center staff has seen some people who have tested positive for the flu but only have exhibited coughing and congestion.

If someone tests positive, the physician might prescribe Tamiflu. While it doesn’t cure the flu, Franz said it could reduce the severity and duration of the disease.

Still, the best way to deal with the flu is to avoid getting it. One of the first steps of prevention is to get a flu shot, which is available at most doctor’s offices and other locations.

It takes about two weeks for a person to develop the antibodies required to help stave off the flu after getting the shot, Franz said.

Other ways to protect yourself include washing your hands and avoiding heavily crowded areas. If you need to go to the grocery store or other heavily traveled locations, Franz recommended scheduling trips when those places are less crowded such as early in the morning or other off-peak times.

And, he added, if you are diagnosed with the flu, avoid people as much as possible to curb the spread of the disease.

He tells his patients to stay out of work at least seven days and not to return until all the flu-like symptoms are gone.

While the flu can strike anyone, Franz said people 5 and younger and 65 and older are typically most susceptible as are people who have other health complications.

The bottom line, Franz said, is to get the flu shot.

“The majority of people we’ve seen have never had the flu shot,” he said. “We encourage everybody to get the flu shot.”

editor@thepicayune.com