Flu Season

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

This flu season is hitting schools in Central Texas extra hard. The Lago Vista Independent School District canceled classes for the rest of this week because of an outbreak, and McDade canceled classes last week for the same reason.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

It was supposed to be picture day for many students in the McDade Independent School District, but instead school was canceled for the rest of the week after a flu outbreak.

NIAID/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone over the age of six months gets the flu vaccine before the end of October, but many won't for various reasons. While the following information should not be interpreted as one more reason not to get vaccinated, it certainly is worth considering that there may be a viable flu-shot alternative this year. 

Charlie Hinderliter wasn't opposed to the flu shot. He didn't have a problem with vaccinations. He was one of about 53 percent of Americans who just don't get one.

"I figured [the flu] was something that's dangerous to the elderly and the young, not somebody who is healthy and in their 30s," says Hinderliter, who is 39 and the director of government affairs at the St. Louis Realtors association.

"Turns out, I was wrong," he says.

University of Texas System

It may not feel like it, but it's flu season. Though the virus typically reaches its peak in winter, when exactly are you supposed to get your flu shot? 

Dr. Coburn Allen, an infectious disease specialist, physician and associate professor of pediatrics at UT Austin's Dell Medical School, says, like many factors surrounding the flu, it's all about timing. 

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT News

From Texas Standard.

It’s been a costly and deadly flu season in Texas and across the country. State health records released earlier this month indicate nearly 3,000 adult Texans have died from either the flu or pneumonia. Many of those who died were over the age of 65. Five pediatric deaths have also been reported.

Lifetime. Education/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard.

Since October 2017, over 2300 Texans have died from the flu. Of those death, over half have been among the elderly. Called the worst flu season in over a decade, it has sparked many conversations about how we can better protect ourselves and our loved-ones from the annual virus. Part of that protection, and part of limiting risk exposure, comes from how we talk about the flu.

From Texas Standard.

The most wonderful time of the year is gone, and it’s been replaced by what some might say is one of the worst times of the year – flu season. This year it’s particularly bad in Texas.

Dr. Robert Legare Atmar, professor and interim chief of infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, says a severe flu epidemic in Australia last winter (that’s summertime in the U.S.) and a few relatively mild flu seasons here indicate the U.S. is due for a lot of flu cases.

CDC

Nine deaths from influenza in Travis County this flu season represent just one measure of how severe the season has been.

Dr. Phil Huang, Medical Director of the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department, notes that cases started showing up earlier in the season, toward the end of 2013, and that patients under the age of 60 were among the most severely affected. 

"Definitely what we're seeing is worse than what we've seen in some past seasons," Dr. Huang said, "and also the population that's being affected with some of the more severe illness is a younger population than what we were seeing." 

CDC

The flu season has hit unusually early this year, and according to the Centers for Disease Control, Texas is one of the states hardest hit. Physicians are urging everyone to get a flu shot. 

Typically, the flu season peaks in January, but so far this year at least five deaths have already occurred in Texas. At a press conference Monday, medical experts at Seton Medical Center Austin said the number of positive flu tests has doubled over the past two weeks.

Dr. Irfan Hydari, the medical director of emergency services at Seton, said the flu strand that is responsible for the vast majority of illnesses is H1N1, or swine flu. That strand became notorious in 2009 when it caused a flu pandemic

But Hydari said vaccine technology continues to improve, and this year it has been adapted to combat H1N1.

flickr.com/sanofi-pasteur

An early, widespread flu outbreak in Texas is putting a strain on the supply of the antiviral drug Tamiflu, a Texas Department of State Health Services spokesperson said Wednesday.

Tamiflu is a prescription drug that both fights flu symptoms and prevents the spread of the flu to the rest of the body. But because of Texas’ flu outbreak, Texas Department of State Health Services spokesperson Chris Van Deusen said there are small spot shortages of the drug.

CDC/ Judy Schmidt

Hospitals and clinics in Austin and Travis County are reporting high levels of flu activity. Across Texas, six kids have died so far this year from flu-related illnesses.

Doctors say the best way to protect yourself is to get a flu shot.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Hispanics are 10 percent less likely to get vaccinated than non-Hispanic whites. According to a CDC survey, in March of 2012, less than 40 percent of Hispanic adults had been vaccinated. That's compared to around 50 percent of non-Hispanic white adults.

This year's flu season started about a month early, prompting federal health officials to warn it could be one of the worst in years. They're urging everyone to get their flu shots.

But like every flu season, there are lots of reports of people complaining that they got their shot but still got the flu. What's up with that?

Well, as Michael Jhung of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains, there are lots of possible reasons.