Hays County flu cases up 2,000 percent

Respiratory care senior, Stephanie Kelley, applies hand sanitizer while working in a hospital. Photo by Katie Burrell | News Editor

Flu related deaths have been reported in Travis County, as well as cities like Dallas and San Antonio amidst a nation-wide flu outbreak.

According to Hays County officials, the flu has seen a 2000 percent increase before Texas State students returned from break

The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 4,201 confirmed cases of the flu for the 2017-18 season, with symptoms appearing in both children and adults. The DSHS suspects the numbers could be even higher.

Ian Harris, Hays County Health Department epidemiologist, reported 304 confirmed cases of the flu among Hays County residents in 2017. According to Harris, the cases are a 2000 percent increase relative to the 15 reported cases seen during the 2016 holiday season.

Harris said this year’s flu vaccine failed to provide protection for the Type A strain of the flu seen in residents now. City officials predict that the rise in flu cases will continue into February as students are returning for the spring semester.

Hays County has only seen positive reports for the Type A strain, but both Type A and B have been seen in Travis County.

“This year the predominant type is Type A, and it’s actually an H3N2 virus,” Harris said. “That’s been something that’s predominant this whole year.”

The current flu vaccine is only 10 percent effective against the mutant strain of influenza. Officials continue to recommend that those who have yet to be inoculated be sure to do so, as the vaccine will still protect against several strains of the virus.

As the spring semester begins, many non-pharmaceutical interventions can be used to protect against the current outbreak. The health center is currently offering flu vaccinations to students, which health officials say is the first line of defense against infection.

Eric Schnieder, Hays County epidemiologist, said those living in close quarters such as dorms and shared apartments should make sure to frequently wash their hands, clean communal areas and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

Additionally, health officials recommend staying away from those exhibiting symptoms of the flu such as coughing, sneezing or fever. The CDC said individuals should avoid contact with others as much as possible until fever symptoms have been absent for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine.

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