The Killeen-Fort Hood area is dealing with an early flu season, but seems to be avoiding the norovirus outbreak plaguing other parts of the country.

“We have had a volume increase of about 20 percent, varying from not very sick to extremely ill,” said Sanna Root, director of Emergency Services at Seton Medical Center Harker Heights.

Root said the ER recently has seen between 100 and 140 patients a day, with 20 to 40 exhibiting flu-like symptoms, a trend seen at other area hospitals as well.

“Norovirus is different than the flu,” said Kathleen Kepler, director of Emergency Services at Metroplex Hospital in Killeen. “The flu travels through the air. A norovirus is transmitted through direct contact.”

Root said Metroplex takes special precautions to avoid a flu outbreak within the hospital.

“That hasn’t been a problem here,” she said. “If a patient is admitted with flu-like symptoms, we put them on isolation precautions. That prevents them from exposing others, including patients and staff.”

Jeff Powell, CEO of Razzoo’s Cajun Cafes, which has a location in Harker Heights, said food industry professionals must implement a “culture that promotes hygiene, food safety and cleanliness” to avoid spreading illnesses like the norovirus.

“When it comes to food safety, we take that seriously 365 days a year, regardless of what is going on,” Powell said. “When you have a culture that is built around hygiene, food safety and cleanliness, you are prepared to keep your staff and customers safe in any circumstance.”

Officials with the Texas Department of State Health Services said the recent uptick in flu cases may mean flu season started early.

Spokesperson Chris Van Deusen said flu season in Texas usually begins in late December, but cases were seen as early as October.

“We may be seeing the peak now, or we could continue to see a high level over the next few months, which would mean a more serious flu season than usual,” Van Deusen said.

“We highly recommend getting the flu shot,” he added. “It is still not too late.

“And if you are sick, stay home. That is the best advice.”

Contact Mason Lerner at or (254) 501-7567

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