There have been 2,300 flu deaths in Texas this season, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services, and that number is expected to climb.
While the 2017-2018 flu season is nearly half over, it doesn't show much sign of slowing down, and officials continue to encourage people to get a flu shot. The flu season typically runs from October to May.
The flu death count doesn’t include many January deaths because it takes several weeks for the state to receive that data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. DSHS uses the information from death certificates provided by the CDC to determine flu deaths.
“We’ll get another batch back sometime this week so that number will go up and it will go up fairly drastically because it will have another couple of weeks of data in it,” said Lara Anton, a DSHS spokeswoman.
The state, however, does collects data on pediatric flu deaths, and there have been five since October, including one in Bexar County.
Anton said this year’s dominant flu strain — H3N2 — is known for having more hospitalizations and complications “and it seems like we’re seeing the same thing happening this year.”
The last time that strain was dominant was the 2014-15 season, which saw 19 pediatric flu deaths. Recent flu seasons in Texas each saw roughly eight pediatric flu deaths.
San Antonio Metro Health officials declined to list the age or gender of the San Antonio victim but did say it’s typical for two to three pediatric deaths per year from flu complications in Bexar County.
Anita Quiran, assistant director of San Antonio Metro Health, said tracking flu is very difficult because its not reportable.
“Not everybody who gets an upper respiratory infection seeks medical attention and — even if you seek medical attention — not everybody with an upper respiratory infection gets tested for flu,” she said.Positive flu tests are reported to the state, however.
This year, 80 percent of tracked flu cases are H3N2. Officials still strongly urge people to get the flu shot even if you’ve already to had the flu.
“Our flu vaccine may not be as effective against H3N2, but there are other viruses circulating in Texas that it’s much more effective against,” Anton said. “And since you don’t get to choose which type of flu you’re exposed to, I think it’s a good idea to try to protect yourself as best you can against all of them.”
If you think you’ve been exposed to flu and start to see symptoms, Quiran said to start treatment as soon as possible.
“If you’re put on anti-virals within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, then the severity of clinical symptoms decrease dramatically and your risk of complications and hospitalizations decrease dramatically,” she said.
San Antonio Metro Health is offering the flu vaccine for free while supplies are in stock at its Immunization Clinic at the Frank Garrett Community Center, at 1226 NW 18th Street.
Joey Palacios can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules