TEMPLE — The spread of flu has reached the community level, with an unconfirmed death in Bell County.

“We’ve seen a tremendous amount of new cases of flu,” said Dr. Karen Brust, Scott & White infectious disease specialist. “To me it’s always remarkable that we go from no flu to being smack in the middle of flu season, and that’s what happened here.”

Scott & White physicians and representatives from Bell and McLennan counties, health districts talked Thursday about this year’s flu and RSV, respiratory syncytial virus, season.

Flu is a preventable disease, Brust said

“I would urge anyone who hasn’t had their flu shot to go ahead and get that accomplished,” she said.

It takes two weeks to develop the antibodies and gain protection from the virus with the flu shot, one week with the FluMist.

The number of influenza and influenza-like cases increased dramatically in Bell County over the last two weeks, said Lacey Sanders, disease surveillance coordinator for the Bell County Health District.

The death last week of an adult under the age of 60 is under investigation, Sanders said.

Bell County this week reported 146 influenza-like illness cases. Flu cases numbered 149, with H1N1 being the prominent strain.

“In Bell County, there have been nine hospitalizations for influenza since last week,” Sanders said.

Those who haven’t been vaccinated for influenza this year, adults and children, should get the vaccine, she said.

Individuals who come down with the flu should isolate themselves, Sanders said.

Those with flu symptoms should skip family holiday gatherings in order to protect their relatives.

There have been 216 positive cases of RSV in Bell County, with three outbreaks since September, two in nursing homes and one in a day care.

“If your child is showing symptoms, don’t take them to day care or school,” she said.

RSV is a common virus that is typically active the same season as influenza — October to March, said Dr. Alma Chavez, pediatric pulmonologist at McLane Children’s Hospital.

It’s a virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages and also can cause pneumonia.

Those most susceptible to RSV are the very young, less than 12 months; the older population, 65 and older; and those with chronic lung disease or lung problems related to heart disease, Chavez said. “It can be very serious.”

The symptoms of RSV are the same as those of a cold — runny nose, coughing and sometimes wheezing, Chavez said.

There is no cure or vaccine for RSV. Treatment includes supplemental oxygen, breathing treatments and fluids.

Everything used to prevent the common cold — frequent hand washing, sneezing into sleeves and staying home when ill — will help stem the spread of RSV, she said. Polivizumab or Synagis, a medication for serious lung disease, is available for children who are at high risk of dying from RSV — children born prematurely, those with chronic heart conditions, or lung defects.

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