Fort Worth

January 11, 2014

Denton, Dallas report more flu deaths

Death toll from flu rises in Denton, Dallas counties. At Tarrant County’s public hospital, nine swine flu patients had to be put on ventilators, a spokeswoman says.

A third person has died in Denton County of a flu-related illness, and the death toll is up to 26 in Dallas County, health officials said Friday.

As for Tarrant County, Dr. Russ Jones, chief epidemiologist for Tarrant County Public Health, said he knew of two probable adult flu-related deaths, one in the the first week of December and the second during the first week of January.

The state requires Texas hospitals and other medical facilities to report flu-related pediatric deaths to county health departments, but not adult deaths. However, Dallas and Denton counties’ health departments ask their sources to report adult deaths. Tarrant County does not, so Jones’ tally is unofficial.

The most recent Denton County death was a woman in her 80s with underlying health conditions, according to a news release from the Denton County Health Department.

“High levels of influenza activity continue to be reported in Denton County,” said Juan Rodriguez, Denton County’s chief epidemiologist. “The 2009 H1N1 virus has been the predominant circulating influenza strain. If the H1N1 virus continues to circulate widely, illnesses that disproportionately affect young and middle-aged adults may occur this season.”

John Peter Smith Hospital’s flu patients are staying longer, and more are requiring ventilator support than ever, said hospital spokeswoman Kristen Newcomer.

“So far this year, 10 flu cases have been definitively identified as H1N1 influenza, often called swine flu,” Newcomer said in a news release. “Only one of those patients did not require ventilator support in the intensive-care unit.”

The patient who did not need a ventilator was the only one who had been vaccinated, Newcome said.

The severity of the cases supports what she has heard from North Texas doctors — flu patients seem sicker this season.

“On Friday, 12 people were hospitalized at JPS, including three in the ICU,” Newcomer said. “In the previous 24-hour period, urgent care and the emergency department saw 56 patients with flu symptoms, up from 49 on Wednesday and 29 on Tuesday.”

Jones repeated the often-heard caution that if you haven’t gotten a flu shot, you should get one. And while there’s still plenty of vaccine at Tarrant County clinics, some other outlets may be out when you first ask.

“We have had some spot shortages, and we’ve had to transfer vaccines from one store to another,” said Walgreens spokesman Jim Graham. “But there’s still plenty of vaccine.”

Graham recommended calling ahead to a Walgreens pharmacy or healthcare clinic to confirm vaccine availability.

Those who believe they have the flu should just take it easy at home for a few days, Jones said.

“If your kid gets a sore throat, fever, cough, or you do, you need to stay home and protect others,” Jones said.

“If you go to your doctor and get an antiviral medication [such as Tamiflu], your symptoms will be less severe and shorter.”

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