After news that a second child in Tarrant County has died of the flu, doctors are desperately urging parents to protect their children and themselves.
In total, six children have died from the flu so far this season across Texas. According to the state health department, four of them were not vaccinated.
Increasing flu activity is something doctors at Trusted ER medical centers around Dallas-Fort Worth are seeing every day.
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Patient Melissa Bankard dropped into the Coppell location on Saturday after days of increasing symptoms such as sore throat, chills and body aches.
"I've got three kids and with kids, they're always coming home with something," she said.
Her influenza-like symptoms, which are tracked by local health departments, are on the rise across D-FW. Her test results for the flu came back negative but the results from her chest X-ray showed pneumonia.
It's a lesson she hopes others can learn from this flu season.
"It gets bad fast," she said. "So if you can catch it as quickly as you can, I think that's just the best approach."
Meanwhile, another patient down the hall tested positive for the flu.
Dr. Harvey Castro of Trusted ER said this flu season is not something to take lightly.
"The vaccine that's out there is not as effective as it was last year," he explained, adding that the virus mutates and changes every year, even within the same season. "We're seeing many more cases of the flu this year than we did last year. "
Flu numbers are on the rise in Dallas-Fort Worth and are trending higher around this time of year compared to last year.
According to MedStar, overall response volume for patients treated for influenza-like-illnesses are up 32% compared to this time last season.
Click here for the latest flu reports from Tarrant County.
Dallas County Health and Human Services is reporting 31.8 percent of influenza tests have returned positive last week. Daily emergency room visits are also increasing for complaints of flu-like illness in Dallas County, with 66 new influenza-associated hospitalizations reported last week. RSV activity also remains high, with 14. 7 percent of tests reporting positive in the county.
Last week, the county reported three flu-related deaths in December.
Castro urges that getting the vaccine is better than no protection at all. Children as young as six months can get the flu vaccine.
"Think of it as a memory, if you are the flu and I've never seen you before, then you attack me and I don't know how to prepare myself. If you give me a flu shot, now I know what you look like and now my body can fight you as the flu," he said.
He also stressed the importance of acting quickly like Bankard did — don't wait for symptoms to reach the point of no return before making your first visit to the doctor or ER.
"Some people tell their family and friends think, 'Oh i'm just going to wait this out.' And unfortunately, this virus is getting bigger and bigger, and then after three or four days, now it's four times as big in your body," he said. "I think what ends up happening is the symptoms overtake the person so the fever gets really high, they're getting dehydrated and may start vomiting."
The elderly and children are most susceptible. Castro said it's especially important for parents to track their child's health as symptoms can quickly take a turn for the worst.
"If you're a child, your immune system hasn't built up," he said. "Your body is worn down. That virus is pulling your immune system down. Now what happens is you're more susceptible for another bacteria to attack you and now you can get pneumonia. It more so happens to the elderly and the young, but it also happen to middle age adults, too."
It's not too late to get the flu vaccine — the flu season usually lasts until March or April. Check your doctor or local pharmacy for supplies. MedStar offers mobile flu vaccine clinics and the Tarrant County Health Department also offers flu shots, which you can schedule by clicking here.
People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.