Ellis County has seen an increased level of flu activity compared to the week before, according to the flu surveillance report by Texas Department of State Health Services.
However, the exact number of confirmed cases in the county weren’t available, said Leigh Nordstrom, Ellis County Health Advisor and doctor at Baylor Family Medical Center in Midlothian.
“It’s not a reportable disease and we get a general idea from the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) and just from our clinics in general that we’re seeing more flu cases,” Nordstrom said.
By state law, the number of flu cases and adult flu deaths are not reportable, but hospitals can voluntarily report the number of influenza tests done and flu-related deaths for children under 18, according to the DSHS report. However, a report by the CDC does consider flu in Texas to by widespread.
“As a system, I don’t have that exact count for you at this time,” said Julie Martin, spokeswoman at Baylor Medical Center of Waxahachie. “However, I can tell you that we have had well above average numbers of positive flu diagnosis over the past few weeks. Most cases that are positive for the flu virus are Influenza A with a few cases of Influenza B.”
Influenza A is the most common type of the flu strain seen in humans, with H1N1 or swine flu being a variety of that flu type, according to the Mayo Clinic website. Influenza B, however, is a strain of the flu may not have as severe a reaction as type A.
An increase in flu-related activity isn’t unusual this time of year, said Christine Mann, a Texas Department of State Health Services spokeswoman. Flu is a common respiratory virus that an estimated 23,000 people across the nation die from each year. An estimated 8 to 10 percent of those deaths occur in Texas, she said.
With cold temperatures causing people to stay inside more often, germs will spread more quickly, according to the CDC. That’s just a reminder of the importance of taking care of your body, said Nordstrom.
“At this time, obviously the flu season lasts until the end of February or early March, so I would expect to continue to see it,” Nordstrom said. “It’s always important to use good hygiene and take care of yourself. The flu vaccine is also always a good way to combat the illness.”
People can also take everyday prevention steps to avoid getting the flu like covering the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, washing hands frequently and avoiding close contact with others, according to the CDC. Those wishing to find the nearest flu vaccine can visit Texasflu.org and use the flu vaccine finder.