COPPERAS COVE — An elderly Coryell County man is the first reported death in this area from the flu. Officials said it’s not too late get vaccinated.
A Coryell County man who was in his 60s died of the flu at the VA hospital in Temple, a Bell County Health Department report confirmed Thursday.
Carrie Williams, a spokeswoman at the Texas Department of State Health Services, said the state is seeing high levels of influenza across all counties.
“Our status for the number of flu cases is considered high and widespread and our surveillance of flu cases is progressing,” Williams said. “We have heard a lot of concern about the H1N1 flu strain because many of the rapid flu tests are coming back with false negatives.”
Williams said that means more people could have the flu than tests are showing. She said there has been one pediatric death from the flu but would not reveal the county the child lived in. Williams also said the state is only required to track flu deaths of adults, meaning the death toll from the flu could be higher than reported.
While all age groups are at risk, young children and the elderly are at even greater risk.
“Pregnant women, young children and our elderly have compromised immune systems. So, people older than 65 are more susceptible to illnesses,” Williams said.
Chelsey Haefner of Stoney Brook Assisted Living in Copperas Cove reported zero cases of the flu among residents at the facility.
“We have a flu shot clinic in September. We work very hard during this time of year to ensure our residents and staff are vaccinated,” Haefner said. “In addition, we practice a number of precautions to prevent the spread of flu because our residents are extremely vulnerable to the virus. Handwashing is key.”
Williams said it is not too late to get the flu vaccination, which does help prevent the H1N1 strain of the flu as well as rapid influenza type A.
While influenza cases tend to peak in February in Central Texas, the number of cases reported since Thanksgiving could indicate that the highest number came early for the 2013-2014 flu season.
Influenza cases in Bell County dropped slightly during the last reported week from the prior reporting period, but that’s not uncommon, said Lacey Sanders, disease surveillance coordinator for the Bell County Health District.
“It could drop and peak again,” Sanders said.
Influenza cases are widespread in Texas and there have been a lot of hospitalizations, she said. “Most of those cases have been unvaccinated people.”
Symptoms of influenza usually come on suddenly, one to four days after the virus enters the body, and may include fever, headache, sore throat, body aches, tiredness, dry cough and nasal congestion, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Among children, otitis media (middle ear infection), nausea and vomiting are commonly reported with influenza. Most people who get influenza will feel better in one to two weeks, but others will develop more serious complications.
In people with chronic medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease, influenza can lead to pneumonia and other life-threatening illnesses. Older adults account for more than 90 percent of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza, Sanders said.
FME News Service contributed to this report.