Local doctors continue to see a large number of flu and flu-like illnesses across the Metroplex and are expecting even more by Christmas.
Six children have died from the flu in Texas since the flu season started at the end of September, state health officials say.
Flu numbers continue to rise in Texas, with widespread cases of Flu A and B in Dallas and Tarrant counties.
And according to the Centers for Disease Control, the country is trending higher -- earlier -- in the number of flu visits to the doctor compared to the last several years.
We asked Dr. Carla Garcia Carreno, an infection prevention specialist with Children’s Medical Center Plano, what makes this year any different.
"Nobody knows, it's really interesting," she said. "Flu usually circulates in the fall and winter months and hangs out until springtime but the variability year to year is not fully understood."
In just the past week, Carreno said Children's Health has worked 285 cases of the flu in their hospital system.
She said 20 to 24 percent of tests being sent out right now are testing positive for flu across the area. Last year at this same time, it was only two percent. And the year before that was 10%.
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Preventing the flu
Either way, Carreno said parents need to stay on top of washing their own hands and their children's hands this flu season, especially if they visit public places like a playground.
Here are the top things doctors say can carrying illnesses like the flu:
- door knobs
- light switches
"So I do recommend to clean them at least once daily and if there was any particular exposure like someone sneezed or coughed on a certain surface, to clean it right away," Carreno said.
The flu vaccine is also incredibly important, she said. With the flu season running from October to as late as March or April, it's not too late to get the flu shot.
Young children and the elderly are most at risk of having a severe reaction to the flu.
“Everybody six months and older should get a flu shot, even if it’s not 100 percent effective -- which we know is about 50-60 percent effective," said Carreno. "It can still prevent severe disease."
When to visit a doctor
Symptoms of the flu include muscle pain, chills, high fever, joint pain, sore throat and headache.
At the first sign of these symptoms, doctors recommend you seek medical attention in order to be prescribed the right medicines to help you overcome the flu.
For very young children, Carreno said if parents see the following flu symptoms, they need to take their child to a doctor immediately:
- Labored or fast breathing
- Nasal flaring
- Sunken eyes
- Dry lips
- No saliva
"As a rule, any newborn or baby less than 28 days old with a fever needs to go to a doctor immediately," Carreno said.
And if you've had the flu, you're still contagious up to 24 hours after your last fever. All it takes is a cough or a sneeze to transmit
“You can actually be contagious even one day before presenting with symptoms," said Carreno. "So it’s really important that we always have very good hand hygiene and not sharing utensils because you don’t know who is sick or could become sick the following day.”
Tips for Avoiding the Flu
- Get a flu vaccine every season, especially people at high risk
- Wash your hands often with soap and water
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Stay home when you are sick
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
- If you're experiencing flu symptoms, visit your doctor and begin taking antiviral medications to help you recover more quickly