AUSTIN, Texas - Austin Public Health is urging the public to get their flu vaccine as emergency departments are overwhelmed with those suffering with the flu.
Experts say this is worrisome because the season just started, and currently the flu positivity rate has already tripled.
"We are seeing a surge in flu cases," said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Medical Director/Health Authority for APH.
The start of October means the start of flu season, but this year's flu season is unlike any other after two years as Travis County started seeing cases in August.
"We're now three times higher, and we're just at the beginning of the season," said Dr. Walkes.
Austin Public Health says emergency departments are overwhelmed with kids suffering from the flu.
Dr. Walkes says Travis County only saw a 1% flu positivity rate last October with an all-time rate of 7% during its peak. This year, Travis County currently already has a 21.9% flu positivity rate.
"That's a big difference and that difference is the result of the impact of not taking steps to help prevent the spread of respiratory illness," she said.
Dr. Walkes says last year, mitigation strategies like social distancing, wearing a mask, and washing hands often not only helped prevent COVID, but it also prevented the flu. She says this year, the public has really relaxed those practices. As a result, we are now seeing a stronger flu season.
The best advice from APH is to get vaccinated.
"Just go out and get vaccinated. Now, you can get both your flu vaccine and your COVID vaccine at the same time, and that'll go a long way to protecting yourselves, your family, and help everyone have an enjoyable holiday season," said Dr. Walkes.
Everyone 6 months and older can get the vaccine. Visit Vaccines.gov to find flu and COVID-19 vaccine providers.