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Flu isn’t going away just yet across DFW

Though every one is encouraged to get a flu shot, this year’s vaccine has brought only limited effectiveness against the dominant H3N2 strain. In this file photo, Downey Regional Medical Center nurse Connie Meinke administers the flu vaccine to fellow employee Brian Virk at the California facility.
Though every one is encouraged to get a flu shot, this year’s vaccine has brought only limited effectiveness against the dominant H3N2 strain. In this file photo, Downey Regional Medical Center nurse Connie Meinke administers the flu vaccine to fellow employee Brian Virk at the California facility. MCT archives

Don’t let your guard down just yet.

After several weeks of decline in Tarrant County, the number of flu cases increased slightly during the second week of January.

The percentage of flu-like illnesses reported at a sampling of doctors’ offices and clinics increased to 5.9 percent during the second week of the month from 5.8 percent the previous week, according to the latest Tarrant County Public Health flu surveillance report. Positive rapid-flu tests rose to 17.8 percent from 17.2 percent.

The flu was still considered widespread in Tarrant County.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the flu is surging again. Cases can pick up as children return to school from the holiday break, and the level is still well below what was being reported in December.

At JPS Health Network, cases continued to decline.

The number of patients seeking treatment for flu symptoms at the JPS Urgent Care Center and the emergency department fell below 100 last week for the first time since the week of Dec. 23.

But the Texas Department of State Health Services cautioned that flu season remains unpredictable, particularly because this flu shot provided limited protection against the dominant H3N2 strain.

“It is still too early to tell if influenza activity has peaked for this season,” the agency said in its weekly flu surveillance report.

Across Texas, the number of flu-like illnesses reported also increased slightly to 11.97 percent from 11.57 percent.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report said this flu shot dropped a person’s risk of having to go to the doctor because of influenza by only 23 percent. The shot’s effectiveness varies from year to year, but it has been as high as 60 percent in the past.

Nationally, 44 states reported widespread activity during the second week of January, according to the CDC.

In Dallas County, officials were also uncertain of where the flu is headed.

The county saw positive flu tests jump from 17.4 percent during the first week of January to 17.7 percent during the second week. That’s still below the high of 30.6 percent during the second week of December.

Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, said it’s too early to say whether the season has peaked.

“It’s unpredictable given the fact that the vaccine is not effective: You just never know,” Thompson said. “I think the next couple of weeks will tell us where we’re going.”

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698

Twitter: @fwhanna

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