The Bell County Public Health District reported three nursing homes in the county are seeing a flu outbreak. As of January 4, also reported 27 people being hospitalized due to influenza. In the last week of December, the county had 150 confirmed cases and 190 confirmed cases of influenza the week before. Now the district is concerned about seeing the spike repeat in local schools.
"At the moment it's concerning mainly because it's happened so early and it's unexpected for a lot of people." District Director Amanda Robinson-Chadwell said. "We are really pushing people, 'please get the vaccine, you still have time to do that.' We're most concerned about keeping an eye on the kids. Now that they have returned to school we are more likely to see a spike."
While McLennan County has seen a spike in Flu A strains, one of which is not affected much by this year's flu shot, Bell County is seeing mostly Flu B. Flu B strains can be prevented by the shot, and the district is not alone in asking people to get it.
At Cornerstone Gardens, a nursing home and rehabilitation facility in Temple, administrator Ryan Holler encourages all employees and residents to get the vaccine.
"We offer it free of charge," Holler said. "Especially to those who would be in daily contact with our residents. Nurses and caregivers and dietary folks."
Cornerstone Gardens also has a number of other policies to prevent a flu outbreak. They clean every room once a day and clean door handles and walking rails even more often. Employees use masks to prevent the spread of germs and the facility sends employees or visitors home if they show flu symptoms.
"We'll encourage family members, and staff as well, if they are sick running a fever, or feel like they could be contagious to stay home." Holler said. "It's great to have families come visit, but it's good to think of that in advance."
People who have family members in similar facilities are encouraged to ask what prevention measures they take. The Bell County Public Health District is also available to provide help for those facilities by providing masks or other items to prevent the spread of the flu.
As for schools, the Bell County Health District is asking parents to keep their kids home if they show any sign of flu symptoms.
"If your child has a sore throat, has a cough, has a fever, keep them home. Don't send them to school. Don't make those numbers get bigger in the school environments," Robinson-Chadwell said.