Confirmed and possible cases of flu and flu-like illnesses have risen significantly across Texas in recent weeks, state health officials said, with one death reported – a 5-year-old who lived in the Rio Grande Valley.
Across the state, 1,375 cases of flu-like illness were reported in the week that ended Nov. 9, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). That’s up from 1,042 cases the week before, and more than double the 635 cases reported in the week that ended Oct. 6, DSHS said.
Texas is among the five states with the highest levels of reported flu activity, including Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Louisiana had the highest flu activity in the country, CDC said.
“DSHS urges everyone 6 months old and older to get vaccinated against the flu,” DSHS said on its website. “It is particularly important for pregnant women, young children, older adults, and people with chronic health conditions, because people in those groups are at a greater risk of severe complications if they do get the flu.”
Health officials had few details about the child who died. A specimen collected from the child tested positive for Influenza A, officials said. The child was not vaccinated for the current season and had no underlying health conditions.
Elsewhere in the state, Caldwell Independent School District closed all of its campuses early last week because of a high number of students with flu and flu-like symptoms. School officials said 15% of all students and more than 20% of elementary school students were expected to be absent. The schools were closed to allow crews to deep clean the school.
Flu can be particularly devastating in Texas: 11,917 flu-related deaths, including 17 children, were reported during the 2017-18 season, health officials have said. The 2018-19 season lasted 21 weeks, longer than any other flu season in the past decade.
The flu is an illness that is much worse than a common cold and can lead to more severe illnesses such as pneumonia, and even death. The best prevention is a flu vaccination, which is why physicians urge everyone older than 6 months of age to get a flu shot every year.
“The past two flu seasons have been particularly noteworthy, and we may be headed into another similar one,” TMA Foundation President Susan Pike, MD, of Round Rock said. “So we want to help Texans get vaccinated now to stay healthy throughout the flu season.”
More tools and resources to help you and your patients prevent flu can be found on DSHS’ website.
As always, the Texas Medical Association’s website has plenty of information on infectious diseases such as influenza.
And if you’re looking for more ways to keep your community healthy, apply for a grant from the TMA’s Be Wise – ImmunizeSM program, in which physicians, TMA Alliance volunteers, and medical student chapters provide flu shots at no cost to uninsured and underinsured Texans in their hometowns.