AUSTIN, Texas - Health officials are bracing for a busy flu season. So far 4,800 people nationwide have already died from the flu and 32 of them were kids. That number, 32, is double what it was last year.
Eight of those pediatric deaths were in Texas.
“Pediatric deaths have increased because predominantly we are seeing Flu B in Travis County, in Texas and across the United States which is relatively unusual. Usually, we will see Flu A as the predominant strain,” said Dr. Mark Escott, interim health authority at Austin Public Health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the Influenza B virus is more likely to affect children. Data from Jan. 4 shows Travis County has more than 1,000 confirmed flu diagnoses. There are no reported deaths in the county so far.
“Last week we saw a substantial increase in emergency room visits. In fact, some ERs were at 170 to 190 percent capacity,” said Escott.
However, Escott said some of those cases may have been mild flu symptoms, which can be handled by a primary care doctor or urgent care. The emergency room should be the option for extreme flu symptoms like weakness, chest pain, and a never-ending fever.
There are still five months left in the flu season, and Escott expects the numbers of positive tests to rise. Getting the flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and others.
“Flu can kill people and that is really an important message. It's also important for folks to remember it's not just how it's going to affect them, but how's it going to affect other people that you expose to the flu,” said Escott.