Texas Clinics Flooded With Tsunami Of Flu Patients — And The Season

first_imgWalgreens’ flu index reports that four Texas cities — Dallas, El Paso, Tyler and Waco — are among the top 10 spots on the nationwide list of areas with the highest flu activity. The list is created using retail prescription data about flu medication bought from nationwide Walgreens.It’s hard to know at this point how the season compares to previous years because the season can peak anywhere between December and March, said Lara Anton, a press officer for the Texas Department of State Health Services. Last year 9,553 Texans died from flu-related illnesses.“We don’t know if this season has peaked yet,” Anton said. “We’ve had the number of visits to doctors go down for the past two weeks so it’s looking like maybe it’s starting to go down but we need a few weeks to know for sure.”When Keisha Whitman saw the rise in the number of flu tests and emergency room visits for Cuero Regional Hospital in December and January, she was surprised.As the infection control nurse at Cuero Regional, 90 miles east of San Antonio, Whitman runs the surveillance reports that get sent to the Texas Department of State Health Services. She’s been with the hospital for nearly 18 years and says she “can honestly say this is probably the worst year that we’ve had statistic-wise for sure.”The hospital’s emergency room and five affiliate clinics have been slammed with patients. Doctors and nurses are donning masks to cover their mouths to try and avoid catching and spreading germs. Whitman said there’s been concern about the number of people who need to be hospitalized. Share Ivan Pierre Aguirre for The Texas TribuneA clinician at the Project Vida Health Center in El Paso on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. Clinics and hospitals across the state have been dealing with a tough flu season this winter.The staff at Project Vida Health Center have been taking waves of flu patients and haven’t been able to come up for air.Bill Schlesinger, CEO for the community health center in El Paso, said the flu has caused a “significant take down” of his own staff members, with between 20 and 30 percent of them getting the flu even after being vaccinated. They’ve had to fill in where they can with people covering shifts, working longer hours and not taking time off.“Remember the videos of the tsunami in Japan and it just kept coming? It was just like that,” Schlesinger said.Health providers across Texas have been battling a severe flu season that is sending thousands of patients to doctors’ offices and hospital emergency rooms. More than 4,000 Texans have died so far from flu-related illnesses this season, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Texas is one of 43 states reporting high flu activity, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.center_img “Sometimes people don’t want to wait or just can’t wait,” Whitman said. “I think because clinics have been so terribly busy and people may call and try to schedule a visit, their recourse is coming to the emergency room.”Part of the reason this flu season has impacted more people than usual is that the vaccine hasn’t fought the H3N2 strain well. But though the vaccine for this season’s flu strain has not been effective, state and federal health experts are still urging people to get their flu shots.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data last week showing 84 children nationwide have died from the flu this season. Federal officials have pointed out that three out of four of the children who died did not get their flu shot. The vaccine has provided 59 percent protection against this year’s flu strain in children ages 8 and younger.Dr. Dennis Conrad, president of the Texas Pediatric Society, said young children are highly susceptible to being exposed to the flu and should be immunized. He said vaccines are the best form of prevention and protection during flu season and that even if patients get the flu after the shot, it will likely be a milder case.“Many people claim that the only time they ever got the flu is when they got the flu shot and that’s not true,” Conrad said. “The shot itself is incapable of causing the disease, that’s why it’s been perpetuated by people who want a convenient excuse to not be immunized.”The unpredictability of the flu is why Dr. David Lakey, chief medical officer for The University of Texas System, says he takes it seriously every year.Part of the issue is “people forget how bad the flu is,” particularly for children, older adults, people living with chronic health issues and pregnant women, Lakey said. He said he is optimistic that this flu season will go away in the next month but people should still call their primary care doctors to make an appointment if they’re sick, get vaccinated, stay home if they’re sick, cover their mouths when coughing and wash their hands.“All of us are waiting for the next big pandemic of influenza, and I think that’s where this season needs to be eye opening,” Lakey said. “There wasn’t a good match between the virus and the vaccine and even with this bad seasonal influenza, we had emergency rooms backed up and hospitals on diversion, which continues to reinforce in me that if a real pandemic occurs, it will be severe on the health system.”last_img read more

Richard Wright HighSchoolers Get Early Break in Media Industry

first_imgRichard Wright Public Charter School’s 2014 Black Tie Gala.Being a young, aspiring journalist in the nation’s capital can be truly rewarding. Perhaps, no other group of teenagers in the city knows this as much as students at the Richard Wright Public Charter School for Journalism and Media Arts.After an impromptu meeting on Capitol Hill with civil rights leader U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a small group of Wright students created the short film, Bridging the Legacy  – Congressman John Lewis: A Hero for Every Generation, which will be viewed June 13 at the Richard Wright Black Tie Gala Film Festival 2015 at the Warner Theatre.Founded in 2011, Wright is the only non-selective high school in the city that affords students unique opportunities to explore media and hone their craft in print and broadcast journalism. Students participate in forums and conferences surrounding issues of civil rights, economic growth, environmental sustainability, technology development and global affairs. Their educational experiences venture from the White House to behind the scenes of local newsrooms. Their work is also published in local newspapers and online platforms.Inside the walls of the southeast school, largely attended by youth who reside in D.C.’s Wards 7 and 8, is where the magic happens.“I really appreciate the family atmosphere we have here. It’s very close knit,” says Stokely Lewis, who worked on the congressman’s documentary. “I can talk to the staff, I’m close with my peers, and it’s something that I have really gotten used to.”Stokely is a member of the ambassador’s club, the school’s premier leadership organization, which cultivates peer-to-peer accountability and mentorship as well as leadership skills as students make decisions that affect the entire student body.Student ambassador Kennard Jones and guest at 2014 gala.“We believe in empowering our students to become solid thinkers and leaders for themselves because clearly we know that they’re not going to be with us for a very long time,” says Dr. Marco Clark, the school’s founder and CEO.In an effort to address reading, writing, and speech deficiencies among urban youth, Clark envisioned the school invoking the spirit of an acclaimed 20th century writer.“Richard Wright represents the majority of the population that we serve – some of our kids have some challenges just as Richard Wright,” says Clark. “Richard Wright was able to express himself in a written format as well as an orator standpoint and I think that really coupled what we needed to have in our school. Plus, we wanted our kids to understand that you can stand for things that are very important especially if they’re going to make a positive change.”When Shaka Williams entered Wright as a freshman, he was unsure of all that mass media entails. Eventually, he took to camera production, then became a founding anchor of the school’s news desk. As a former athlete who took a break to focus on his studies during his senior year, Williams enjoys keeping up with sports through reporting.“We may not have the best teams in the area, but I do promote them and I give them the absolute respect for what they do on the field and what they do in the classroom,” he says.As a member of the school’s first graduating class of 60 students, Williams will attend the University of the District of Columbia for mass communications and English, with a stronger sense of what it takes to become a nationally recognized sports anchor.“A lot of kids come [to the school] with an [interest] in being a journalist, interviewer, or filmmaker and being here opens up their minds of what they want to do,” he says. “And they’re set afterwards.”last_img read more