Austin Public Health says 8 Texas deaths are result of predominance of flu strain not seen since 1990s

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Health officials confirmed the flu has killed at least eight Texas children this season.

The first occurred in the Rio Grande region back in November 2019.

Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Health Authority for Austin Public Health, believes the deaths can be linked to a predominance of the influenza B strain this season.

Typically in the season or almost always, it’s primarily influenza A. So this is quite unusual that we’re seeing a predominance of influenza B. We haven’t seen this since the 1990s… Pediatric deaths are more often associated with influenza B because it does tend to affect children more severely, so we do think that is a result of the influenza B being the predominant strain.

Dr. Escott

Flu B affects children more due to less exposure.

“In the past, they may or may not have had flu B, but flu B is less impactful in adults because it changes less. So it tends to drift and not shift, whereas influenza A changes more significantly. And we can have a greater mismatch with that vaccination.”

National statistics further reveal the season’s severity. Officials have recorded at least 9.7 million flu illnesses, 87,000 hospitalizations and 4,800 deaths from flu in the U.S.

Dr. Escott said the numbers are alarming.

“To some extent, we expected that we’re going to have a bad year when we talked in September. We discussed the flu season in Australia, which was particularly bad. And we know from prior history that there’s often a good correlation between what happens in Australia and what happens in the United States. And in fact, that’s happening,” Escott said.

(Todd Bailey/KXAN)

Travis County is part of these statistics, unfortunately. As a result, Austin Public Health answered questions from KXAN Wednesday morning.

Health officials urge people to stay home if they experience mild flu-like symptoms, per their press release. The idea is to save the emergency room for those with severe cases.

Symptoms breakdown

Mild flu symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, fatigue and headaches. If you or someone you know experiences more severe symptoms, they urge you to seek immediate medical attention.

Severe symptoms include:

Children

  • Fast breathing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bluish skin
  • Chest pain
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Dehydration
  • Not waking up or interacting
  • Seizures
  • Fever above 104 degrees
  • Fever or cough that improves but then get worse

Adults

  • Difficulty breathing/shortness of breath
  • Sudden dizziness or confusion
  • Chest or abdominal pain
  • Seizures
  • Severe weakness
  • Not urinating
  • Fever or cough that improves but then get worse
Dr. Mark Escott spoke to media Wednesday (Todd Bailey/KXAN)

The health of our community depends on the actions of each individual person. Protect yourself, protect your loved ones and protect our community by taking preventative actions to minimize the impact of influenza.

Dr. Mark Escott, interim health authority and medical director for Austin Public Health said in the press release.

Stay vigilant

Significant flu activity can occur as late as May, and people who get the flu vaccine can still get sick. However, those who do after getting the shot can expect a milder illness along with lower risks of pneumonia, hospitalization or death.

Austin Public Health also state in their press release it’s important to:

  • Wash your hands often and avoid touching your face
  • Cough and sneeze into a bent elbow
  • Clean surfaces frequently
  • Ask your medical provider for treatment for people in your household who have also been exposed to the virus and may be at increased risk to contract the flu

Visit AustinTexas.gov/Flu for more information on flu, and visit AustinTexas.gov/Immunizations for more information on immunizations.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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