After two uneventful flu seasons — 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 — this year’s was especially tough on Bell County residents.

Five flu-related deaths were recorded in Bell County this season and many more hospitalizations with extreme complications, said Lacey Sanders, disease surveillance coordinator for the Bell County Health District.

“H1N1 was the prevalent strain, and it’s a more virulent strain that tends to hit people harder,” Sanders said.

The flu hit younger and middle-age adults the hardest, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. People ages 18 to 64 represented 61 percent of all hospitalizations from influenza, up from about 35 percent the previous three seasons. Influenza deaths followed the same pattern, with more deaths occurring in the younger age group.

A second report showed the influenza vaccination offered substantial protection this season, reducing a vaccinated person’s risk of having to go to the doctor for flu illness by about 60 percent across all ages.

Even during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, people older than 65 didn’t have high rates of infections, hospitalizations and deaths compared to other age groups,

“They seem to have cross protections from a prior influenza virus they’ve experienced,” she said.

While the H1N1 flu strain is waning, the B strain is now showing up in Central Texas, said Dr. Manjusha Gaglani, Scott & White pediatric infectious disease specialist. There have been no confirmed cases of the B strain in Bell County.

“I would urge people to get vaccinated, even now,” Gaglani said. “People think it’s too late, but it’s not because there’s more than one kind of flu.”

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