Even though there was some hope last week that the flu was starting to loosen its grip on North Texas, that optimism has faded.
The percentage of patients with flu-like illnesses decreased during the week of Jan. 14-20 to 10 percent from 10.3 percent from the previous week.
Despite that slight drop, Tarrant County Public Health’s chief epidemiologist Russell Jones said that isn’t enough to be considered good news.
“It’s more of a plateau,” Jones said. “It looks like we’re in the middle of the peak season. It’s going to stay high for most, if not all, of February.”
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The H3N2 virus has been the dominant strain this season, which tends to lead to more hospitalizations and deaths.
In Tarrant County, there have been 21 deaths this year but Jones said there have likely been more that haven’t been reported. Dallas County is now reporting 49 deaths.
Across the U.S., 39 states (including Texas) are reporting high flu activity, according to the weekly report from the Center from Disease Control and Prevention.
Jones noted that widespread flu activity started in Louisiana and Mississippi about two to three weeks ahead of Texas, which is one possible indicator that it will stick around.
At John Peter Smith Hospital, positive tests for the flu continue to rise, surging to 549 in January, well ahead of the 408 in December.
And positive flu tests increased at all Texas Health Resources hospitals this week. From Jan. 15-18, there were 393 positive tests. From Jan. 22-25, there were 421 positive flu tests.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged residents to take the following steps:
▪ Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.
▪ Take every day preventative actions to help prevent the spread of germs, including avoiding contact with sick people and staying home if you do get sick.
▪ Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Also, clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like flu.
▪ Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth because germs spread this way. Cover mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
▪ Get a flu shot if you haven’t already done so.