Six children in Texas have died of flu-related illness since the season started at the end of September, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) said last week.
The children ranged in age from less than 1 year to 16 years old, DSHS said. Four were not vaccinated for the current season, and health officials are still gathering information on the other deaths.
Across the state, 1,822 cases of flu-like illness were reported in the week that ended Dec. 7, DSHS said. That’s up from the 1,738 cases reported the previous week, but down from the 2,066 cases reported in the week that ended Nov. 23.
“We’re seeing high levels of flu activity across Texas right now,” said DSHS Commissioner John Hellerstedt, MD. “Young children are one of the groups known to be at high risk of hospitalization or death from complications of the flu. Getting your flu shot is one of the best ways to protect them and everyone else in the community.”
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.
“Children 6 months to 8 years old who are getting vaccinated for the first time, and those who have only previously gotten one dose of vaccine, should get two doses of vaccine this season – spaced at least four weeks apart,” said Jennifer A. Shuford, MD, infectious disease medical officer at DSHS and a consultant on the Texas Medical Association’s Committee on Infectious Diseases.
More tools and resources to help you and your patients prevent flu can be found on the DSHS website.
As always, TMA’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 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.