Dallas County is experiencing high levels of positive flu tests, earlier than usual, county health officials said this week.
More than 17 percent of flu tests returned positive results in the week ending Dec. 7, Dallas County Health and Human Services reported, and there were two flu-related deaths that week. Last week, the daily number of emergency room visits for flu-like symptoms in Dallas County increased.
There were 35 new hospitalizations during the week ending Dec. 7.
“This is the earliest we have had this much flu activity in than last 10 years,” said DCHHS Director Dr. Philip Huang. “It’s not too late to get your seasonal flu shot.”
Wednesday, the DCHHS reported a third flu-related death, a 79-year-old patient from Irving with pre-existing medical conditions.
“Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every season with rare exception. Flu shots are also recommended for pregnant women and people with certain chronic health conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease – to decrease their risk of severe flu illness. Practicing everyday preventive actions can also help slow the spread of influenza and other respiratory illnesses,” Huang said. “These steps include: frequent hand washing, covering your coughs/sneezes with a tissue or into your elbow and staying home if you have flu-like symptoms. Finally, if you do get sick with the flu, take antivirals medications if your doctor prescribes them.”
“The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. Most flu vaccines in the United States protect against four different flu viruses (“quadrivalent”); an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and two influenza B viruses,” the Centers for Disease Control explained. “There are also some flu vaccines that protect against three different flu viruses (“trivalent”); an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and one influenza B virus. Two of the trivalent vaccines are designed specifically for people 65 and older to create a stronger immune response.”
And while the ideal time to get a flu shot is in October, the CDC said even getting it in January can prove beneficial.
“Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial and vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season, even into January or later,” the agency said.
In addition, the county reported that Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) tests are also reporting positive at a rate of 31 percent.