Austin Public Health reports seven flu-related deaths in Travis County

The 2017-2018 flu season hit hard and hit sooner than expected. In Travis County alone, Austin Public Health has reported seven flu-related deaths. 

Dallas County has reported six flu-related deaths as of Tuesday.

Texas Health Services, Infectious Disease Medical Director Jennifer Shuford said the rate at which the illness is spreading is alarming. "The steep rise in concerning that it is spreading very quickly across our state," Shuford said.

Shuford said the H3N2 is the predominant and severe strain they are encountering this year.

"When this strain predominates often times we see a higher severity of illness, we see more hospitalizations and more deaths in high risk groups," said Shuford.

Austin Public Health said they’ve seen an increase in hospital visits and people testing positive for influenza this season. Medical Director and Health Authority for Public Health Dr. Phillip Huang said the flu season is unpredictable but the past previous years have been mild in comparison to this year. He recommends people take the flu-vaccine.

Recently, a study was released from Australia stating the vaccine used to fight the flu was ineffective against a certain strain. However, both Shuford and Huang argue the vaccine used in the U.S. is different and they cannot tests the vaccine’s effectiveness till later in the season.

"For that particular strain there was less effectiveness but we still strongly recommend people getting their flu shots because it protects against all four of those or some of them three and can decrease the severity of the illness if someone does get sick," Huang said.

Huang is urging people to be cautious and mindful of others by asking people to cover their coughs, wash their hands and if you don’t feel well stay at home.