AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Public Health is reporting the flu positivity rate in Travis County is more than double what it usually is at this point in the season.
APH said in a release the flu positivity rate for the most recent reporting period is 26.88%. The agency noted usually at this time, it’s below 10%.
APH also said the percentage of visits to health care providers due to flu-like illness is 8%, which is “much higher” than at this point in time in the last few years. You can see that in the graph below, with this year’s flu season being the dark red line.
APH said right now, emergency rooms in the Austin area are overwhelmed with patients suffering from upper respiratory illnesses. The agency’s epidemiologists are monitoring upper respiratory virus trends, specifically in children in the hospital.
Guidance for the holiday season
APH is urging flu shots for everyone six months and older, as well as COVID-19 vaccines for that age group as well. APH said over 71% of those eligible in the county have done their first COVID-19 vaccination series. Only about 37% have gotten a booster or third dose.
APH said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends those five and older get an updated, bivalent booster shot. These new boosters offer broader protection against newer COVID-19 variants, APH said, including BA.5 which is predominant in Travis County.
APH said to stay home if you’re feeling sick as viruses could spread more easily during indoor group gatherings.
If you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, the CDC recommends masking and testing at least five days after the exposure, according to APH. If you have COVID, stay home and isolate for at least five days.
If you’re hosting, look at ways to improve ventilation, APH said:
- Opening doors and windows when it’s safe to do so
- Using fans
- Use pleated filters in your HVAC system to improve air filtration
- Consider using a portable air cleaner
Make sure visitors have easy access to hand soap and water or hand sanitizers. You can also wear a mask to protect yourself and loved ones who may be more at risk for serious illness.