By MIKE EDDLEMAN
Those feeling a little under the weather – or a lot – are not alone in Texas as the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is reporting widespread reports of influenza and flu-like illness across the state as the new year begins.
While the reported cases in Williamson County were not out of the ordinary through much of December, Deb Strahler with the Williamson County and Cities Health District said now is around the time cases increase each year.
“We do typically see an increase in late December into January,” she said. “A typical ‘flu season’ in Central Texas typically runs from November through April, spiking in January and February.”
Strahler added that so far, there has been more reported cases of Type A Influenza.
The good news locally, according to nurses throughout Liberty Hill ISD, is schools are not seeing any numbers out of the ordinary this flu season.
“We’re seeing typically the same flu numbers as usual,” said Liberty Hill High School Nurse Kelley Keen. “We’re not seeing anything out of the ordinary or different than the area in general.”
She added that the school continues to emphasize good habits that prevent the spread of illness such as not sharing drinks, good hand washing and other precautions.
“We saw a slight increase right before the break so it has peaked a little earlier than usual, but nothing out of the ordinary since coming back,” said Liberty Hill Junior High Nurse Sandra Duncan.
While anyone can contract flu, certain people are more susceptible and vulnerable to its effects.
“The most susceptible are children younger than five, adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women and women up to two weeks postpartum, residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities as well as people with chronic illness,” Strahler said.
It’s not too late to get vaccinated, though infants under six months cannot get the flu shot.
“Flu vaccination is definitely still recommended at this time for anyone six months or older,” Strahler said. “Information from the CDC states that influenza antiviral drugs may be effective in reducing symptoms. The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year.”
Other simple habits can also greatly reduce the spread of flu.
“Good health habits such as frequent hand washing, staying home when you’re sick and covering your cough may also help protect you against the flu,” Strahler said. “The more people in the community that get the flu shot help protect those persons who cannot get vaccinated, such as infants younger than five months and immunocompromised.”
According to the DSHS, there were also increased reports of other respiratory viruses in recent weeks.
For more information on flu activity, symptoms and prevention methods, go to www.wcchd.org or Texasflu.org.