McLennan County seeing worst flu numbers in 5 years

Channel 6 news reporter Andrew Moore reports.

Flu cases are still rising in Central Texas.

Last week, the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District said there was a 400 percent increase in flu cases in the past four weeks. The district told Channel 6 the spike was normal, and data showed a similar spike happens every year.

But now, one week later, Flu A reports are exploding.

On the week of Dec.1, there were 74 Flu A cases reported. The week of Dec. 8, there was 304 cases reported. And the week of Dec. 15, there were 654 cases.

It's the largest spike in the last five years, according to McLennan County Public Health District data. 

Some doctors are blaming the flu shot.  According to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, the current vaccine is not effective against the the Influenza A (H3N2) strain. The article said estimates of effectiveness in Australia were only around 10 percent. 

On Dec. 21, McLennan County Public Health District spokeswoman Kelly Craine,said it was too early too see if the vaccine was really the issue.  

"[The new virus] is only slightly different, and the flu changes every year," Craine said. "That's why you get a flu shot every year. We adapt the vaccine to how the flu changes."

But after the Flu A explosion, ER doctors like Bryan Thomas, who works at Express ER in Temple, said the vaccine could be the main culprit. 

"Compared to last year we are seeing far more cases," Thomas said. "We are seeing double or triple the cases we saw last year.  Part of that is going back to how successful the Influenza vaccine was... In a case like this we could say the Influenza vaccination itself was not successful in predicting the viruses in the community."

Thomas said he still recommends the vaccine for protection against other strains of Influenza, but it will offer much less protection against some Flu A.

Anyone with Flu Symptoms, including a fever, are advised to avoid contact with others. Basic hand and cough hygiene will also slow the spread of the flu virus.

The Flu vaccine has been approved for everyone including children six-months-old and older, including pregnant women.

The Health District said the following people below are high-risk individuals:

  • Persons aged 65 years and older, with and without chronic health conditions
  • Residents of long-term care facilities
  • Persons aged 2–64 years with chronic health conditions*
  • Children aged 6–23 months
  • Pregnant women
  • Health-care personnel who provide direct patient care
  • Household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children aged <6 months

Types of chronic health conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Lung disease
  • Metabolic diseases like diabetes
  • Blood disorders like anemia
  • Neuromuscular disorders that can cause breathing problems
  • Weakened immune system from cancer, cancer treatment, HIV/AIDS or steroid therapy

© 2018 KCEN-TV


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