While the number of flu cases continues to drop, Tarrant County has reported its eighth flu-related death.Six of the deaths tested positive for Type A influenza, but two, including the latest one, tested positive for Type B.Type B typically doesn’t cause widespread outbreaks like Type A, and it’s often found in places such as schools and nursing homes, said Russ Jones, chief epidemiologist for Tarrant County Public Health.H1N1, the dominant strain this year, is a Type A strain.Of the eight Tarrant County deaths, five people were 70 or older, two were in their 40s and one was 30 to 39.The flu is decreasing across Texas, but health officials warn that it is still active. The latest flu reports are from the week that ended Jan. 25.“It looks like we’re on the downside … ” Jones said. “But we should expect to see flu cases through February into March.”Health experts say it’s not too late to get a flu shot.Texas is one of 10 states where activity is still considered high, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.“While we’ve seen a consistent decline in flu activity over the last four weeks, the level of influenza-like illness continues to be high in Texas,” said Christine Mann, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services. “We continue to encourage everyone 6 months old and older to get a flu shot.”Tarrant County health entities that were strained have seen activity return to normal.MedStar, which had backlogs as long as 90 minutes in emergency rooms several weeks ago, is back to normal, MedStar spokesman Matt Zavadsky said.John Peter Smith Hospital ended its “code yellow” Monday after 15 days. Under code yellow, JPS had postponed elective surgeries and beefed up staffing to deal with a crush of patients in the emergency department.Despite the encouraging news, the flu was still taking its toll. At JPS Hospital on Friday, seven flu patients were hospitalized, including four in the intensive care unit on ventilators.North Texas has had at least 65 flu-related deaths, including the eight in Tarrant County and 42 in Dallas County. In its weekly flu surveillance, Dallas County Health and Human Services reported that flu activity remains high but is on the decline.
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698 Twitter: @fwhanna