H1N1 deaths around Houston lead to concerns, questions

HOUSTON - Several people dead from the condition once commonly referred to as swine flu. But are these H1N1 cases more aggressive this season because more people are getting sick?

Brett Beach experienced painful flu symptoms, including aches, fever and nausea.

"Anything that would hit my lips I was throwing up," said Beach. "I was miserable and terribly dehydrated after all night of being sick."

Beach heard about recent deaths in Montgomery County from the H1N1 flu strain, so he didn't want to take any chances. He went to St. Michael's Emergency Room in Sugar Land.

"They had an IV in me and injected me with stuff to stop the stomach cramps and nausea," said Beach. He also received Tamiflu.

Doctors across the Houston area said they are getting a lot of patients like Beach.

We're seeing a ton of flu right now," said Dr. Jim Ferguson of St. Michael's Emergency Room.

"It's really starting to hit hard. We're seeing influenza A and there have been some recorded cases of the H1N1 virus," Dr. Jim Ferguson with St. Michael's Emergency Room.

At the Neighbors Emergency Center, Dr. Setul Patel said they do not know of any H1N1 flu patients there yet, but they are seeing 50% more patients than usual with flu symptoms.

"Most definitely this year we've seen an uptick in patient volume," said Patel.

Doctors urge people with symptoms to see a medical professional as soon as possible.

"There are anti-viral medications we can prescribe and that will give you your best shot at fighting this thing off," said Patel.

Kathy Barton with the Houston Department of Health and Human Services said H1N1 is prevalent in the Houston area.

"We have seen a great deal of H1N1,' said Barton. "In fact 81% of the positive specimens we have looked at are H1N1."

Barton and area doctors said the risk for death is usually low, and often linked to children, or adults already suffering from other illnesses like asthma or obesity. Barton emphasized the flu shot and good hygiene are important.

Health officials in Montgomery County report that a ninth patient has come forward with flu-like symptoms similar to eight other cases reported earlier this week.

Of those nine, tests have confirmed two were infected with H1N1, the predominant flu strain being seen statewide.

According to the Centers for Disease Control's latest surveillance, Texas is seeing some of the highest levels of flu activity in the country. H1N1 is the most common strain.

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