LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - For the last several weeks, several emergency rooms in East Texas have seen high numbers of patients with many of those being flu related.
Experts believed that the peak of the influenza season would occur in January for the East Texas region, but that is not the case.
"We have seen a large numbers of reports," Sharon Shaw, Director of the Angelina County and Cities Health District said. "[It has basically occurred] from the end of November through this first part of December, so we have a lot of flu in the area."
The Health Department is experiencing cases of both types of flu.
"We are experiencing both a Variety of Flu A and Flu B," Shaw said. "That Flu A includes the H1N1 virus. It seems to be more contagious and easily spread."
Both Woodland Heights and Memorial hospital in Lufkin have been swamped.
"We have seen an increase of about 25 percent," Angela Hess, Stroke and chest pain coordinator of Memorial Hospital, said.
Part of the cause of the early peak is the cold weather.
"Typically, when you start seeing fluctuations of temperatures outside, you start to have family gatherings with everyone sharing germs," Hess said. "You do see a spike."
The hospitals are not the only ones dealing with the virus, schools are having to make sure students are prepared.
"The number one prevention for the flu and cold is hand washing, with little kids onto big kids," Jan Fulbright, head RN for Lufkin ISD said. "With [kids] touching everything; touching keyboards and items they use and as well as touching each other, they need to keep their hands clean."
While many parents might feel the urge to run to the ER, health officials say that may not be the best option.
"Seeing your primary care doctor is the best," Shaw said. "You get one on one care and that same physician can follow you if necessary, but if it is the weekend or night and you are having those issues; high fever or difficulty breathing or chronic illness, you need to go ahead and visit your emergency room."
Shaw also said that even with the early start, they are prepared to fight the flu through the end of February.
To see that State's Health report that is updated weekly, click here.