Saturday, January 11, 2014

 

Dallas County flu death toll rises to 26

Dallas County’s death toll from the flu climbed to 26 along with a record number of hospitalizations in the first week of January, according to a report released Friday.




That’s nine new deaths since the county’s last surveillance report a week ago.
“The outbreak is more severe this year than the last couple years,” said Dr. Christopher Perkins, medical director of Dallas County Health and Human Services.

Denton County confirmed its third flu-related death Friday — that of a Highland Village woman in her 80s.
The JPS Health Network in Fort Worth reported that hospitalized flu patients appear to be sicker this flu season than last, staying nearly two days longer on average.

Health officials blamed the greater severity of illness on the primary flu strain hitting this season — the H1N1 virus, also called swine flu.

When it first appeared in the U.S. in the 2009-10 flu season, it was a novel virus that caused widespread illness and death.
“It wreaked havoc across the country,” Perkins said. “Now, it’s back on the scene.”
Dallas County’s latest surveillance report, covering all flu cases reported from Sept. 12 through Jan. 4, highlighted:
• 15 flu-related deaths in adults confirmed by Dallas County hospitals.
• 11 additional flu deaths in adults confirmed in autopsies performed by the county medical examiner’s office.
• 557 flu-related hospitalizations reported since the outbreak began.
• 70 new flu admissions to intensive-care units, including 30 patients needing ventilators.
• 69 pregnant women hospitalized with flu symptoms in the most recent week, but none in ICUs.
• No flu-related deaths confirmed in children.
Nearly 100 percent of the confirmed flu cases were H1N1.
In 2009 and 2010, the H1N1 strain caused the first flu pandemic — a global outbreak caused by a novel flu virus — in more than 40 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A total of 279 pediatric flu deaths were confirmed to the CDC that season. The number was nearly four times the average for the previous five seasons.
So far this season, one flu-related pediatric death has been reported in North Texas. Lydia Kizziar, a Carrollton 13-year-old, died last weekend after a test confirmed she had the flu, according to Denton County officials.
Perkins cautioned against comparing this year’s toll with last year’s. This is the first year Dallas County has required hospitals and the medical examiner to report adult flu deaths.
“It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison,” Perkins said.
“Last year,” he said, “we were hit with the H3N2 virus,” a less severe strain.
While the flu is more likely to cause severe symptoms and death among people with underlying health problems, others aren’t in the clear. So far this season, 27 percent of those who have died of flu in Dallas County had no such health problems.
Health officials said they were encouraged that more people are seeking flu shots, the best protection against the virus.
About 300 people were lined up outside the Dallas County health department at 7 a.m. Friday when Zachary Thompson arrived at work.
“They were standing in the rain,” said Thompson, the department’s director. “And we were swamped all day with people trying to get shots.”
The county has about 3,000 vaccine doses for children and will attempt to get more, he said. Several thousand adult doses also were available to those who are uninsured, low-income or on Medicare or Medicaid.
Flu shots are also available at pharmacies, grocery stores, doctors’ offices and other health departments.
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