Though recent increases in flu activity are not unusual, Texas issued flu testing and treatment guidance today to doctors and is continuing to encourage everyone to get vaccinated now to protect themselves.
The level of flu-like illness is classified as “high” in Texas, and medical providers are seeing an increase in flu in multiple parts of the state. Unusually severe cases of flu-like illness are routinely investigated during the flu season by local health departments in coordination with the Texas Department of State Health Services. H1N1 is the most common circulating flu strain so far this season. This year’s flu vaccine includes protection against the most common flu strains, including H1N1.
DSHS advises clinicians to consider antiviral treatment, even if an initial rapid-flu test comes back negative. A negative result does not exclude a diagnosis of flu in a patient with suspected illness. Antiviral treatment is recommended for anyone with confirmed or suspected flu who is hospitalized, has severe or progressive illness or is at a higher risk for complications.
“Flu is on the rise and causing severe illness in certain people. It is not unexpected this time of year, but it’s a good reminder for people to get vaccinated and stay home if they’re sick,” said Dr. David Lakey, DSHS commissioner. “Flu can be deadly. People who have not been vaccinated should do so now. It’s the best defense we have.”
Flu is a serious disease that kills an average of 23,600 Americans a year, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People over 65, pregnant women, young children and people with chronic health conditions are most at risk for complications, so it’s especially important for them to be vaccinated.
Flu cases and flu-related deaths in adults are not required to be reported to DSHS. Healthcare providers are required to report pediatric flu deaths to their local health department within one business day. There are no confirmed pediatric flu deaths in Texas this season.
DSHS recommends everyone six months old and older get vaccinated. People should talk to their health care provider about the best type of flu vaccine for them. A nasal spray version is available for healthy people ages 2 to 49 who are not pregnant, and a high-dose vaccine is approved for people 65 and older.
Dr. Lakey also urged people to follow standard illness-prevention steps:
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
- Cover coughs and sneezes;
- Stay home if sick
For more information, go to www.TexasFlu.org.
DSHS Influenza Health Alert: www.dshs.state.tx.us/news/releases/Influenza-Health-Alert-122013.pdf