West Texas Physicians Prep for Flu Season

By: Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

Hospitalization, months of illness and even a few fatalities. Last year, the H1N1 flu virus sickened adults and kids all across West Texas. But NewsWest 9 wanted to know what we're facing this year. NewsWest 9 spoke with local hospital officials, doctors and pharmacists all across the Basin to find out what your family needs to know to make it through this year's flu season.

"Last year was the worst I've seen as far as how bad the flu hit the children and H1N1, we hadn't seen that before," Julio Castillo, Pharmacist in Charge at Graham's Pharmacy, said.

It was just last year waiting rooms were packed tight with patients wearing masks.

"This time last year, the H1N1 awareness was at an all time high," Dr. Michael Austin with Midland Community Healthcare Services, said. "There was a lot of activity, a lot of calls to the clinic - a lot of people who thought they had the flu but maybe didn't have the flu. It was very much in the public's consciousness."

Part of the problem was that companies started making the vaccines after H1N1 hit. That left many West Texas pharmacies with no way to treat the flu so they had to get creative.

"We started having to make the tamiflu suspension for the kiddos," Castillo said. "We had to start compounding that to help with the demand."

But those days are over. Doctors are saying this year is shaping up to be a normal flu season.

"We are seeing some activities in the clinics," Dr. Austin said. "About a dozen cases so far of confirmed flu."

But however the flu season turns out, West Texas medical providers say, they're ready. Midland Memorial Hospital says they'll be issuing flu vaccines to their patients starting on Friday. And next week, they'll begin offering the vaccine to their employees. At this point, they haven't seen any serious flu cases coming through their doors.

The school district in Midland says during the next few days, they'll offer two clinics for their faculty and staff to get the vaccine and they're urging parents to get their kids vaccinated now before the virus spreads around campuses.

Graham's Pharmacy in Midland tells NewsWest 9, they started ordering the vaccines back in March and so far they're stocked with over 3,000 doses. As of Thursday night, they've given out 500.

"Because there is such a high supply of the flu vaccine this year, we're not expecting to see as many cases," Castillo said.

This year's vaccine is a little different than usual. It includes the H1N1 vaccine meaning adults and children only have to get one shot instead of two.  All of the doctors and pharmacists NewsWest 9 spoke with are recommending that families get that vaccine now. It takes about 10 days for the shot to kick in and become effective. They say if you do get it now it will last throughout the peak flu times in January and February.