Flu continues to spread in Texas after early start to season

A map of the United States showing the proportion of outpatient visits to health care providers for flu-like illness.  Flu-like illnesses include respiratory illnesses that include fever, cough, or sore throat.  For the week ending Nov. 5, influenza-like illness was “very high” statewide in Texas.

A map of the United States showing the proportion of outpatient visits to health care providers for flu-like illness. Flu-like illnesses include respiratory illnesses that include fever, cough, or sore throat. For the week ending Nov. 5, influenza-like illness was “very high” statewide in Texas.

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Texas flu season started early this year and shows no signs of abating, public health officials said this week.

Texas is one of several states in the United States with a “very high” level of influenza activity, Tarrant County public health director Vinny Taneja said Tuesday.

“I don’t think I’ve seen this on our flu map for a long time,” Taneja said at a court of commissioners meeting on Tuesday, referring to the brown color used to indicate the level of flu in Texas and a much of the south. WE

Statewide, nearly 8% of patients seeking care at outpatient clinics had flu-like symptoms, according to state health department data. This metric, which looks at “flu-like illnesses,” is the one most public health officials rely on to report the number of people who come to the doctor’s office with a fever, cough, and sore throat.

“That’s significantly higher than what we’ve seen at this point in the past few years,” Dr. Jennifer Shuford, acting commissioner of the state Department of Health Services, told a conference in press on Monday.

The annual flu season is known to be difficult to predict, Shuford said, so this year’s flu season could continue to get worse, could peak in the next few weeks before plummeting, or could peak several times over the next few months. month.

Public health officials have encouraged Texans to get the seasonal flu shot in addition to the updated COVID-19 bivalent booster to protect against serious illness from troublesome viruses.

In a typical year, only about 50 percent of Texans get their flu shot each year. The seasonal flu vaccine is recommended for anyone six months of age and older, and especially for young children, adults 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.

Respiratory syncytial virus appears to have peaked in Texas

The good news, Taneja said, is that after an early and aggressive start to the RSV season, the past two weeks have shown a slight decrease in the number of Texans testing positive for RSV.

Respiratory syncytial virus, better known as RSV, is a common virus. In most healthy adults, this will only cause a cold. But the virus can cause more serious illness, pneumonia and even death in very young children, people 65 and older and people with weakened immune systems.

In October, children’s hospitals across the state said an influx of RSV cases combined with an early start to flu season left them with limited capacity. Cook Children’s Health Network in Fort Worth said hospital beds and outpatient clinics were at capacity with sick children.

As of Sunday, there were 11 beds available in pediatric intensive care units in the DFW area, according to state data.

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Ciara McCarthy covers health and wellness as part of Star-Telegram’s Crossroads Lab. The position is funded with assistance from the Morris Foundation. She came to Fort Worth after three years in Victoria, Texas, where she worked at the Victoria Advocate. Ciara is dedicated to providing people and communities with the information they need to make decisions about their lives and well-being. Please contact us with your questions about public health or the health care system. Email cmccarthy@star-telegram.com or call or text 817-203-4391.

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