Flu Outbreak Reaches Epidemic Proportions: CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ruled the proportion of deaths from pneumonia and influenza was enough to reach the epidemic threshold for the first time this season.

That means the number of deaths from pneumonia and flu across the country have exceeded the numbers that were expected.

According to the CDC, widespread influenza activity has been reported in Texas and 39 other states.

Dr. Paul Pepe at Parkland Hospital explained Friday that influenza is a very serious illness and can be lethal because of the body's reaction to the virus.

"It's a virus, so it basically causes inflammation and reaction throughout your whole body and many of your organs may not work so well and in really extreme cases you may have organ failure as a result," he said. "The real reason many people die is they have an underlying condition and they might not even know it. They may have an underlying heart problem and this is a major stressor on your system."

Pepe stressed the flu shot is still your best defense against the flu. "First of all the flu shots do work. They don't work for everybody and they don't work in every case," he said. Let's say it works 60 to 70 percent of the cases really well. I'd rather have a 60 to 70 percent chance of not getting the flu than a 100 percent chance. So that's straight-forward. You should get the flu shot."

The Tarrant County Public Health Department reported Friday that influenza-like illness increased from 9.6 percent in the first week of this year to 10 percent in the second week of the year (Jan. 5-11). information is not yet available for the current week. 

Collin County health officials reported two more flu-related deaths in the county on Friday. Tarrant, Denton, Hunt and Wise Counties had no new deaths to report. Dallas County reported nine flu-related deaths on Friday.

There have now been a total of 50 flu-related deaths across North Texas this season.

Research from a partnership between Google and the Centers for Disease Control shows Fort Worth and Dallas near the highest level of Google searches for flu topics this year. Shown on Google Flu Trends, the graphs appear to level out or even decrease for the last months and show a lower instance of searches compared to last year.

Find an embedded chart from Google Flu Trends below:

 NBC 5's Amanda Guerra contributed to this report.

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