Flu season still going strong in North Texas

Posted Friday, Jan. 18, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
A

Flu facts

Five to 20 percent of U.S. residents get the flu each year and more than 200,000 are hospitalized.

The illness generally lasts one to two weeks.

Flu season begins in the fall and usually peaks in January and February.

Most healthy adults can infect others one day before symptoms develop and five to seven days after symptoms appear.

Symptoms

Temperature of 100 degrees or higher or feeling feverish.

Cough and/or sore throat.

Runny or stuffy nose.

Headaches, body aches and chills.

Fatigue

Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea (most common in children).

Preventive measures

Getting the flu vaccine is the best protection.

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care.

While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

Who's at risk?

People 65 and older.

Children, especially those younger than 2.

People with chronic health conditions.

Source: FLU.gov

Flu facts

Five to 20 percent of U.S. residents get the flu each year, and more than 200,000 are hospitalized.

The illness generally lasts one to two weeks.

Flu season begins in the fall and usually peaks in January and February.

Most healthy adults can infect others one day before symptoms develop and five to seven days afterward.

Symptoms

Temperature of 100 degrees or higher or feeling feverish.

Cough and/or sore throat.

Runny or stuffy nose.

Aches and chills.

Fatigue

Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea (most common in children).

Preventive measures

Getting the flu vaccine is the best protection.

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based rub.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

Avoid close contact with sick people.

If you have a flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, except to get medical care.

While sick, you should limit contact with others.

Who's most at risk?

People 65 and older.

Children, especially those younger than 2.

People with chronic health conditions.

Source: www.flu.gov

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

With hospitals and clinics still seeing plenty of patients with flu-like symptoms, officials aren't ready to say the worst is over.

"It's a little too early to say we peaked," said Robert Genzel, an emergency room physician at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth. "The numbers have decreased over the last five days, but that's too small of a sample size. If it continues for another week or two, then we might be able to say we're past the peak."

At Harris Methodist, 284 patients were treated for influenza in December and 285 were treated during the first two weeks of January.

At Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, the number of flu cases went from 427 the week ending Jan. 5 to 514 the week ending Jan. 12.

Seven pediatric deaths have been reported in Texas, including one in Tarrant County. The state doesn't track adult deaths.

Because the flu season traditionally peaks in January and February, experts are still encouraging people to get a flu shot.

"This season is shaping up to be worse than average," Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a telephone news conference Friday.

"It's a particularly bad season for the elderly. But there's still time to vaccinate. Early treatment is important."

Apparently, folks are taking the message to heart.

At the SuperTarget in Montgomery Plaza, just west of downtown Fort Worth, pharmacist Verne Thibodeaux said the number of customers seeking flu shots tripled around New Year's.

The pharmacy has also seen a surge in prescriptions for Tamiflu.

MedStar swamped

Genzel said many patients can ride out the flu without seeing a doctor if they aren't seriously ill and aren't in one of the at-risk groups.

"If you don't have any underlying conditions, you can take Tylenol or Motrin and ride it out at home," Genzel said. "But if you have those risk factors or you feel really lightheaded or cannot keep liquids down, you're not making as much urine or you're in a confused or altered state, those are the people we need to see."

The flu has also affected MedStar.

For the first nine days of January, the average daily volume was 299 calls, a 12.1 percent jump over December and a 15.8 percent increase over January 2012. MedStar spokesman Matt Zavadsky said those trends have continued this week, with call loads climbing as high as 310 a day.

MedStar added extra ambulances this week to handle the increase.

High activity

Nationally, the CDC reports, the hospitalization rate for patients 65 and over soared to 82 per 100,000 the week ending Jan. 12. Typically, about 90 percent of flu deaths are among those 65 and older. The elderly are particularly vulnerable to the H3N2 virus, the predominant strain this year.

Locally, officials said, hospitalization numbers among adults have bucked the national trend.

The JPS Health Network said that it hasn't seen any increase in hospital admissions for flu. At Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Southwest Fort Worth, the number of hospitalizations has dropped the last two weeks while the emergency room has stayed busy.

Texas was one of 30 states reporting high flu activity for the week ending Jan. 12.

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698

Twitter: @fwhanna

Looking for comments?

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?