With the Texas flu season in swing, health experts across the Lone Star state are monitoring a rising number of cases.
Tarrant County commissioners revealed a flu map during a recent commission meeting, NBC 5 reported, which showed activity to be very high.
The Tarrant County public health director, Vinny Taneja, shared that activity has not been that high in “a long time.”
Heather Vlassis, a pharmacy manager with Perrone Pharmacy in Fort Worth, shared that the pharmacy has administered more flu shots than usual this season.
“We’re doing a lot of shots this year, probably more than normal. We’re seeing a lot of flu, though, too. We’re kind of getting both sides,” Vlassis told NBC 5.
“You don’t have to make an appointment or sit around people who are also there making an appointment because they’re sick,” she said.
Around 700 shots have been administered by Perrone Pharmacy so far, according to Vlassis.
Shots do not entirely prevent getting the flu, but pharmaceutical companies claim they can be beneficial if exposed to the virus, “even if it is a different strain than one of the ones in the quadrivalent shot,” Vlassis claimed.
“You can still get the flu, [but it] probably won’t be as bad,” she said.
Data from the Texas Department of State Health Services showed that flu season in the state started a few weeks sooner than is typical, NBC 5 reported.
This year, the H3N2 flu variant has been reported to cause severe cases in the elderly and children. This variant is also the dominant strain across the country. Of over 3,500 respiratory samples from public labs, influenza A(H3N2) was found in 76%.
A pediatrician and infectious disease expert with Children’s Healthcare Atlanta, Dr. Andi Shane, stated that high activity of this variant points to a bad flu season.
“When we have more H3N2, we usually have a more severe flu season — so, longer duration, more children affected, more children with severe disease,” Shane told NBC 5.
H1N1 is the other virus variant. It typically causes less severe flu seasons.
Hospitalization rates have also been high. Out of every 100,000 people with the flu, around eight are being hospitalized, or .008%. For children and senior citizens, that number is higher, according to NBC 5.
The rate for children is around 13 for every 100,000 (.013%). For elderly citizens, it is about 18 for every 100,000 (.018%).
H3N2 has been shown to cause more severe cases in children and seniors during past flu seasons, according to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Dr. José Romero.
Romero told NBC 5 early in November, “There are also early signs of influenza causing severe illness in precisely these two groups of individuals this season.”
Since this year’s flu season began, at least 4.4 million have contracted the virus. More than 2,000 have been hospitalized (.045%), and at least seven children have died (approximately .0003%).
The Dallas Express previously reported that this is the worst flu season in a decade so far.