Flu cases increase in October, but no outbreak

No one has died, but the number of people ending up in doctor’s offices sick with the flu is on the rise. It’s a real concern according to Dr. Mark Escott, who heads up Austin Public Health 

"We have seen a 500 percent increase in the number of cases between the first week of October and the last week of October,” said Escott.

Two strains of flu are moving through the area, influenza A and B. The trend is following a track similar to a significant outbreak a few years ago, but Escott says there's still time for that to change.

 "What we see is, generally speaking, a peak in January- February so we are still before the peak and now is the time to get the shot,” said Escott.

In September, most counties in Texas reported cases of flu-like symptoms. Only Bexar and Travis counties had confirmed flu cases. This month the flu has hit more than 20 counties.

It’s not as bad as last year, which Ashley Earnest remembers very well.

"It was awful, I felt like I got hit by a bus. and I was in bed for a week straight,” said Earnest who did not get a flu shot last year.

Getting the vaccine formula right can be a little hit or miss. Last year the vaccine was not very effective, less than 30 percent. This year some changes have been made to increase the odds.

"Our early indications are, that it may be better than the protection they had in the Southern Hemisphere particularly in Australia, this summer, which had such a bad flu season,” said Escott.

Dr. Escott has simple advice: if you get the flu, don’t go to work. If your kids get the flu, don’t send them to school. For those who didn’t get a shot last year, like Ray Baker, it’s not too late to get a shot now.

“I've been healthy for most of my life, but you're right I should be definitely getting a flu shot now that I’m getting close to 60 that’s for sure,” said Baker.

It’s important to remember the flu vaccine doesn’t give you immediate protection. It can take several days or more than a week for it to build up. The flu season typically runs into late May.