Nationwide, 32 children have died of flu this season, including eight in Texas. The figure is up from 16 last year – a jump that may be partially due to the strain of virus.
Influenza-B has been the predominant flu strain so far this season. It tends to affect children more “substantially” than adults, according to Dr. Mark Escott, the interim health authority and medical director for Austin Public Health.
The strain is less common, he said, and "therefore children have had less previous exposure to it, which may make them more susceptible."
Although there haven’t been any flu-related deaths in Travis County, Escott said two schools had flu outbreaks last fall in which about 10% to 20% of students were out sick. Now, a third school in Manor is experiencing an outbreak.
Austin Public Health in encouraging people with mild flu-like symptoms – “fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, fatigue and headaches” – not to go to an emergency room but to visit their primary care provider, urgent care, pharmacy walk-in clinic or use telehealth services.
“We have seen substantial stress on our emergency departments and hospitals lately – part of which is attributable by folks going to those ERs for the flu,” Escott said.
Austin Public Health advises people with these severe symptoms to visit the emergency room:
According to the latest estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9.7 million people across the country have had flu-related illnesses so far this season, 87,000 have been hospitalized and 4,800 have died.
Escott says to keep the flu from spreading, wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face, and cough and sneeze into your bent elbow. And, with five months left in the flu season, he says, it’s still a good idea to get the flu vaccine if you haven’t been vaccinated already.