TEMPLE — Since Thanksgiving, the numbers of flu and influenza-like illnesses have steadily increased.
“We’ve seen a huge increase in our flu numbers this week,” said Lacey Sanders, disease surveillance coordinator for the Bell County Health District.
Last week, 106 influenza-like illness cases were reported in Bell County, Sanders said. There also were 22 confirmed cultures for “flu A” and 23 confirmed cultures for swine flu, or H1N1.
“H1N1 has been the predominate type of flu seen here all year,” she said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Texas and eight other states are seeing regional flu activity, and both Mississippi and Texas are reporting high numbers of influenza-like illness.
Bell County is one of four Texas counties reporting confirmed cases of both Type A and Type B influenza, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
“If you haven’t gotten your flu shot, there’s still time,” Sanders said.
People experiencing upper respiratory illness symptoms should isolate themselves, she said.
Washing hands frequently helps keep viruses at bay. At home, using disinfectants such as Lysol sprays and Clorox wipes on commonly used items, such as door knobs, remote controls, phones and other things everyone in the family touches, will help keep influenza exposure down.
“Everyone wants to be around their families on the holidays, but if you’re running a fever and coughing, you need to be self-isolating,” Sanders said. “Maybe not going to a family gathering is the best thing for everybody.”
This has been a bad season for respiratory problems among adults and children, she said.
Three pediatric patients in Bell County were hospitalized with H1N1.
Many youngsters in Bell County have not been vaccinated for the flu and that needs to addressed, Sanders said.
“RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) has been really bad,” she said.
RSV is the major cause of respiratory illness in young children, according to the CDC. It infects the lungs and breathing passages and is the most common cause of bronchiolitis, inflammation of the small airways in the lung, and pneumonia in children under 1 year of age in the United States.
“We’ve had a lot of adult cases, which is unusual,” Sanders said. “I’ve had two nursing home cases related to RSV.”
Compound the respiratory cases with pertussis and it’s been a rough season, she said.
It takes two weeks to develop immunity after an injected flu shot, and anytime in that period a person can get exposed and get sick.
A dead virus is used to make the vaccine, so people can’t get sick from the shot, Sanders said. Those age 45 and under can get the inhalation vaccine, which only takes seven days to build up an immune response.