Dallas County Health and Human Services reported three cases of the flu for the 2014-2015 flu season on Friday. Tarrant County is reporting one positive flu test so far this season.
"These early flu reports tell us that the virus is circulating in the community and citizens need to protect themselves by getting a flu vaccine," said DCHHS Director Zachary Thompson.
Fifty-eight flu-related deaths were reported in Dallas County during last year’s flu season.
“There’s a big scare with Ebola recently. The flu is actually a lot easier to contract and a lot easier to spread,” said Dr. Jonathan Clarke, with Preston Hollow 24 Hr. Emergency Room. “So this is a viral illness that can affect very large parts of the community, is very easily transmissible and is much more dangerous to public health than something like Ebola.”
Clarke said signs and symptoms of the flu are very similar to other viral illnesses that are common this time of year.
“Primarily, it’s an upper respiratory illness, so you’re going to have cough congestion, sore throat, maybe some sneezing, fever, chills, body aches,” Clarke said. “Less frequently, some people will have nausea and vomiting. That’s more prevalent in children.”
Vinny Taneja, director of Tarrant County Public Health, said getting vaccinated is your best defense.
“The flu vaccine is the best way to prevent getting the flu, however, there are things that everybody should do on an everyday basis and it will not only prevent the flu but many other diseases,” said Taneja. “Wash your hands throughout the day, and, very important, with warm soap and water. People get complacent, and they start using alcohol hand sanitizers. Alcohol hand sanitizers are great as a supplement not as a replacement for hand washing.”
Taneja also encourages anyone who is sick to stay home to help prevent the spread of flu.
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NBC 5 learned this year’s flu vaccine contains a flu strain taken from Tarrant County Public Health. It’s an H3N2-like virus.
The vaccine you’ll get this year is either a trivalent or quadrivalent vaccine, meaning it will protect against three or four strains of the virus. For children 2 to 8 years of age, the CDC recommends a live attenuated influenza vaccine, which is basically a nasal spray of weakened but live flu virus.
Taneja recommends the nasal spray for adults as well and suggests it may be more effective.
“I usually use the example of practicing boxing,” Taneja said. “If you take the flu shot, it’s like practicing boxing against a punching bag so you can hone your technique. But if you actually have a live sparing opponent in you ring, then you get a better learning experience and that’s how the flu mist works. It’s a live opponent and your body tends to have a better response.”
Clarke cautions against the mist, however, for those with chronic medical conditions or those around people with chronic medical conditions. For those people, he recommends the flu shot.