Reports of the flu in Tarrant County are as high as they’ve been since 2014 — and the worst of it might be yet to come.
Flu season should peak over the next two weeks, said Russ Jones, chief epidemiologist at Tarrant County Public Health.
Statewide, reported hospital visits due to flu-like illnesses increased from about 10 percent to more than 14 percent for the week of Dec. 17-23, according to a report released Friday the Texas Department of State Health Services.
“The month of January is not going to be fun for getting the flu,” Jones said. “We’re actually just ramping up.”
Last week, 6.8 percent of all emergency room visits in Tarrant County were due to flu-like illnesses, about a 50 percent increase from the week before, according to a weekly surveillance report from the health department.
The most recent high was about 11 percent in December 2014, according to the report. Last year, the percentage of flu-related emergency room visits peaked at just under 6 percent.
Reported positive flu tests also jumped in the week before Christmas, rising from 383 to 1,130.
Positive flu tests aren’t required to be reported in Texas, so those numbers — which were voluntarily submitted by 15 hospitals and six clinics — are generally “tip of the iceberg” figures, Jones said.
At Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, 921 children were tested for the flu the week before Christmas and 353 tested positive, according to the hospital. That’s also the highest number since 2014, according to Cook Children’s.
Dallas County this week reported two flu-related deaths, bringing the total to five this season.
And Walgreens pharmacy ranked the Dallas-Fort Worth area eighth for “most flu activity” in the nation.
Jones said the flu virus thrives during colder weather. And since the most common way to spread the virus is through human contact, there’s typically an uptick in flu cases around the holidays and when children return to school in early January.
More than 23,600 deaths occur and 200,000 people are hospitalized annually because of the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The best ways to avoid catching and spreading the virus is to avoid contact with people who are sick and stay home if you are, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Also, it’s not too late to get a flu shot.
“If you hadn’t had it yet,” Jones said, “get it today.”
Flu vs. cold
Flu symptoms include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. The flu can cause serious health problems.
Cold symptoms are usually milder than the symptoms of flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention