Although there are still no plans for Hays County to sponsor any free or reduced-cost flu shot clinics in the near future, incidents of influenza have been spiking locally, mirroring trends across the state and nation.
For the week of Dec. 29 through Jan. 4, there were 193 confirmed cases of influenza in the county and another 380 residents who sought treatment for flu-like illnesses.
The week prior, there were more than 200 confirmed cases and more than 400 people sought treatment for similar symptoms, according to Eric Schneider, Hays County’s epidemiologist.
Flu symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control says, typically include fever or feeling feverish alternating with chills. Cough, sore threat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. There may also be vomiting and diarrhea, though that commonly occurs more often in children than adults.
Complications of flu can often be more serious than the disease itself and range from pneumonia and bronchitis to sinus and ear infections.
Influenza can also worsen chronic health problems like asthma and congestive heart failure. People who are more subject to complications includes adults age 65 and over, pregnant women, children and those who have asthma, heart disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and cancer, as well as children with neurologic conditions.
Schneider said locally, health care providers are seeing “a mixture of both Flu A and Flu B strains, but Flu B is outnumbering Flu A at about two to one right now.”
He noted that only the state lab can identify “the serotype of the strain to narrow down exactly which strain of flu the patient has,” and that “our medical providers do not typically send specimens to the state lab in Austin” when a local lab that can deliver results quicker is available.
As to how well this year’s vaccine appears to be working, Schneider said a report is expected from the state or the CDC later this month.
Flu season officially began in September and, the CDC says, activity is high across Texas and the U.S. So far this season some 170.7 million doses of flu vaccine have been distributed.
Most insurance plans cover flu shots and they are available at most local pharmacies as well as H-E-B.
No one has died in Hays County this season from flu or complications of the disease.