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Bioscience-Medicine

Report: Flu Season May Be Losing Its Momentum

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Wendy Rigby
/
Texas Public Radio

Fewer visits to the doctor for the flu may indicate that the season is winding down, but state health officials are not ready to declare the worst is over, just yet.

The flu season lasts from October to May and can peak at any time, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. That can make it difficult to determine when the most active part of the season is over. Declines in the number of positive tests and doctors visits may signal the season is losing its momentum.

The flu season has had severe cases caused predominantly by type A flu strains, like H3N2. But over the last few weeks, the state is seeing more cases of the B strain, which can be weaker.

“We believe that this is a good sign that we may be starting to trend downward,” said Lara Anton, spokeswoman for the Department of State Health Services, adding that more than half of recent positive tests find the B strain.

Reports from participating hospitals and clinics also show a continuous drop in visits for flu-like symptoms over the last three weeks.

“It has come down before earlier in this season and gone back up so we can’t say for sure yet that we have peaked,” Anton said.

The percentage of visits for influenza-like illnesses dropped from 13 percent to 11 percent of overall visits, according to reporting hospitals and clinics in the most recent DSHS report.

The number of influenza and pneumonia related deaths in Texas during this flu season is 4,153, which includes deaths due to pneumonia being caused by flu.  

“Pneumonia is a very common secondary infection that people get after having had the flu and you can only test for flu for a very short period of time,” Anton said.

The state uses death certificate data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the data received can be several weeks old so it does not include recent flu or pneumonia related deaths.

Joey Palacios can be reached at Joey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules.