While areas like Austin and Waco are experiencing high numbers of reported flu cases, the Bell County Public Health District has not seen any signs of the influenza peak season.
“We have predominant flu A but we haven’t had any significant spikes,” said Amanda Robinson-Chadwell, director of the Bell County Public Health District.
The newest numbers of the Bell County Public Health District show only 100 reported cases of confirmed influenza type A for the end of January. Compared to last season, the chart showed over 600 reported cases during this time of year. So far, a total of 205 confirmed cases of influenza type A were reported during the 2018/2019 flu season for Bell County.
While the number of influenza cases are still low in the Killeen area, news reports from Austin and Waco stated last week that schools in the school districts of Itasca and Lago Vista have been closed for multiple days due to the high number of infected students. Staff used the time to clean and sanitize the facilities.
“There are a lot of reasons why the flu numbers are not as high here as they are in other areas,” Robinson-Chadwell said. “We may have higher vaccination rates for flu this season and the flu vaccination is fairly effective.”
Other factors include the amount of flu testing by jurisdiction as well as the number of hospitals and doctors that actually reports the cases to the health district.
“Reporting is not mandatory for the flu,” Robinson-Chadwell said. “We have a certain number of providers that do provide us with that information but not all of them do, so it may be that we just don’t get every number.”
To stay on the safe side, Robinson-Chadwell recommended to still get vaccinated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, influenza season is from November to March but can run as late as May. An age-appropriate influenza vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months and older.
“If you do receive the vaccine, it does take two weeks to take effect so you still have to be very careful about things like covering your mouth, washing your hands – all of those preventative hygiene measures,” she said.
Other preventative measures are to avoid touching one’s face, avoid contact with sick people and the regular use of hand sanitizer when out in public.
While the vaccine is the best method for preventing infection with influenza, it can’t completely eliminate the chance of getting sick.
“The influenza vaccine is comprised with the predominant flu strains or what they predict to be the predominant flu strains,” Robinson-Chadwell said. “The thing to remember is that there are hundreds of strains of flu. The vaccine only protects against the top four.”
However, vaccinated patients usually don’t get the flu as severe as unvaccinated ones.
If infected, it is important to stay hydrated and manage the symptoms like fever and chills, cough, sore throat, head and body aches as well as runny or stuffy nose.
“One of the most important things is to stay home, don’t go to work, don’t go to school, don’t spread it around,” Robinson-Chadwell said. “If you get severely sick, definitely see your doctor.”