Flu Widespread; Strains Not More Severe Than Normal

By Chris Van Horne
|  Tuesday, Jan 15, 2013  |  Updated 11:19 PM CDT
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The flu vaccine is still the best way to avoid the flu, and there has been a steady stream of adults and children in Tarrant County getting the shot.

Chris Van Horne, NBC 5 Fort Worth Reporter

The flu vaccine is still the best way to avoid the flu, and there has been a steady stream of adults and children in Tarrant County getting the shot.

Tarrant County health officials say the flu season remains bad and is moderately severe, but the severity is related to the number of sickened people, not the particular strains of the virus.

Dr. Anita Kurian, Tarrant County Public Health chief epidemiologist, updated the Tarrant County Commissioners Court on Tuesday about how the flu stood in the county.

There has been one reported pediatric death related to the flu this season. The county typically averages one to two such deaths each flu season.

Reported doctor's visits for flu-like symptoms reached 11 percent of the population in the state the last full week of 2012, according to Tarrant County. But while more people are coming down with the flu and seeing a doctor, the severity of the illness isn't any worse than in years past.

"What we are seeing is a severe season in terms of number of people being who are affected by flu," Kurian said. "But as far as clinical presentations go, there are no clinical indication thus far that the illness is any more severe than what we've seen in the past."

Kurian said the flu remains widespread in all four sectors of the county and has been widespread in the county since the week of Thanksgiving, meaning the flu arrived eight weeks earlier than usual this season.

Kurian said the health department has given out nearly 4,000 flu vaccines this year and expects the arrival of another 200 on Wednesday.

During her presentation to the commissioners, Kurian reiterated that a flu vaccine -- while not always 100 percent effective -- is the best way to fend off the virus. She said it's never too late to receive a flu shot.

A steady stream of children and adults have come in for flu shots at the Tarrant County Public Health facility in Lake Worth.

"A lot of people have had colds, sniffy noses and all that, and I just didn't want everyone to get sick because of me," Stacey Hunter said.

Hunter was one of many North Texans who had yet to receive a flu shot prior to Tuesday. Kurian said that a little more than 60 percent of Americans nationwide have not received flu shots this year.

This year's flu shot is 62 percent effective in preventing the virus, according ot Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, Kurian said.

"Flu vaccine, as you know, are far from being perfect, but it is still the best tool available for preventing flu," Kurian said.

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