There may be some good news in the flu epidemic in North Texas.
The Dallas County Health and Human Services leaders briefed commissioners Tuesday morning and said it looks like the flu season may have hit its peak.
For the third week in a row, Dr. Chris Perkins, Dallas County HHS Medical Director says the number of flu cases continues to decline.
“It appears we might have started a continual decline where we might have peaked with activity, as far as the flu. However, as I’ve stated in previous briefings, the flu can last as late as May historically with our peak activity being in January and February. It appears we have peaked,” said Perkins.
That’s based on numbers ending the week of Jan. 11, 2014. They'll wait to see what the numbers reveal this week after the kids returned from the holiday break.
The number of flu-related deaths remains at 35 in Dallas County. Perkins says that number is expected to continue to increase. There have been at least 50 flu-related deaths in the entire DFW area. There has not been a reported pediatric death from the flu.
Health and Human Services Director Zach Thompson says there are still flu shots available. The health department nurses are working 10 hour days, giving out 300-500 vaccinations a day. They urge everyone, next year, don’t wait -- get a shot in October.
This year, 80-percent of the people hospitalized have been younger than 65.
“Healthy adults are also being impacted this year by the H1N1 virus. It's not too late to get the flu shot. Hopefully we can see some better indicators in the next several weeks of where we are right now. Everyone still needs get the flu shot, wherever they can find them,” said Thompson.
While still dealing with the flu, the health department is now talking about the West Nile Virus. It's education campaign will begin in March, a month earlier than last year. They're working on ground spraying and aerial spraying plans, and will begin testing mosquitoes in April.
Numbers released to the Dallas County Commisioner’s Court today illustrate how hard this year’s flu outbreak is hitting otherwise young, healthy adults.
- 81 percent of people hospitalized in the county were under the age of 65
- 57 percent of people hospitalized were under the age of 50
Doctors say patients who have high fever, body aches, cough and congestion should be seen by a physician soon after the onset of symptoms so that anti-viral medications can work to reduce their symptoms.
However, Dr. Kim Mangham, MD, with Cook Children's in Keller says for some patients, particularly young children, home remedies can provide great relief from symptoms without the risk of side effects.
"There have been some studies that show an improvement in cough symptoms just from honey, and so I recommend that a lot in my younger kids and in my older kids as well," says Dr. Mangham.
It should be noted that children under the age of one should not be given honey due to the risk of infant botulism.
Dr. Mangham also recommends using saline and a cool mist humidifier to help relieve congestion in young children.