Texans should use common sense to determine whether they have anthrax or flu, officials say

The same fever, sore throat, cough, runny nose, fatigue and muscle soreness listed among flu symptoms are also associated with inhaled anthrax, so state health officials are urging Texans to use common sense in seeking medical attention.

As flu season opens in Texas, vaccines are again in short supply, just as people around the country are growing concerned about the recent mailings of deadly anthrax spores on the East Coast.

No anthrax cases have been confirmed in the Lone Star State.

Texas health officials urge people not to panic or rush to their doctors if they develop flu-like symptoms because, chances are, that’s just what it is.

“Think about the context in which these symptoms have developed,” said Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, an Austin physician who will become state health commissioner next month.

There have only been three cases of human anthrax infection in Texas since 1967. They were likely the result of exposure to animals or soil contaminated by dead livestock, Texas Department of Health spokesman Doug McBride told the Austin American-Statesman for Wednesday’s editions.

Anthrax isn’t transmitted from person to person like the flu is.

A flu shot is one way to avoid the disease, but it usually takes about two weeks to become effective. The shot doesn’t provide 100 percent protection, but it lessens the flu’s severity, Sanchez said.
People at the most risk of getting the flu include those 65 and older; nursing home residents; people with chronic diseases, including asthma, heart or lung conditions and diabetes; and women in the second or third trimester of pregnancy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects more vaccine to be available this year than last year, but officials said they expect just 56 percent of the vaccine to be distributed by the end of this month, with the rest trickling in by the end of the year.

Flu vaccine shipments have been delayed because few companies manufacture it and because the doses must be reformulated to cover new strains of flu, said Lynda Shanblum, a Seton Healthcare Network representative.