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South Texas is getting hit hard by the flu; ways to protect yourself

Flu, RSV, COVID and the common cold are all hitting people hard.

SAN ANTONIO — The holiday season is approaching, and 'tis the season for sicknesses, especially the flu. 

With RSV, COVID, the flu and the common cold floating around, finding out what you have is extremely important.

Dr. Jason Bowling, an infectious disease specialist with University Health, and Professor of Infectious Diseases with UT Health San Antonio, told us, "There are treatments available for both COVID and for influenza, and there are different antivirals. And it's really important, particularly for people that are at high risk for severe disease." 

A report by Flu View shows as of November 5, nearly 14,000 positive flu tests have been reported in the U.S. That is 12 times the number reported at the same time in 2019 before the pandemic. 

Over the past five weeks, about twice as many flu tests were done at labs nationwide compared to last year. That's about 460,000 versus 254,000. More testing means more cases will be tallied. 

So why so many tests? 

Dr. Jan Patterson, an infectious disease specialist with both UT Health San Antonio and University Health told us, "Simply because we're seeing more influenza. You know, for instance, at University Hospital in the last few weeks, they've seen more than 700 samples positive for use for influenza. And that's an incredible number."  

The latest CDC flu tracking map showed the worst states in the southeast, with Texas very high too. Why is the south getting hit so hard? Dr. Patterson said, "It just happens that certain regions, when they get a higher rate of infection, that kind of multiplies for a while and then it shifts to other areas. We saw the same thing with COVID." 

To help figure out what you may have, with COVID, you'll likely have a loss of taste or smell, but not with flu, unless you're congested. RSV symptoms are similar to a cold, but mainly affect infants and the elderly. A common cold lasts 5-7 days, the flu up to 10. 

The way to determine if you have the flu, COVID, or RSV, is to get tested for all three. If all are negative, it is likely a cold. Dr. Bowling added, "If you have underlying medical problems, if you're over 65, very young children can get really sick with flu."  

Both doctors also say if you still haven't gotten either the latest COVID booster or the flu shot, now is the time to do it, and you can get them both at the same time. 

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