The Centers for Disease Control is calling this year’s flu an epidemic and Denton County health officials agree.
Bing Burton, the Denton County Health Department director, is encouraging everyone to get vaccinated to ward off the pesky and often times deadly virus.
“I think that [epidemic] is an accurate description. Simply put, there are lots and lots of cases,” Burton said. “The CDC report, their map ending Jan. 5, shows widespread flu activity in 47 states.”
Burton said he doesn’t think people take the flu as seriously as they should, and relatively mild flu seasons like last year, tend to lull people into a false sense of security against the virus. This is a mistake, Burton said.
Dr. Glenna Harris, a pediatrician at Pecan Creek Pediatric Association in Denton, said she’s easily seen three to four times more children in her office this year with flu than last year.
Within the last several weeks, about 100 children have tested positive for the flu, Harris said.
At least 98 percent of those who tested positive for the flu had not received the flu immunization, she said. The children who did have a flu shot and tested positive handled it a lot better than those who didn’t, she said.
Harris encourages families not to take young children out in crowds unless necessary, practice “good hand-washing” and cover their mouths when they cough.
She also suggested that people visiting grocery stores use sanitizing wipes to wipe down surfaces such as shopping baskets where germs may linger for hours.
“If your child is sick and has fever ... keep them home,” and away from places like school where they could potentially infect others, Harris said.
She also suggested people drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
On average, about 24,000 Americans die each flu season, according to the CDC. That’s an estimate — the agency does not keep a running tally of adult flu deaths each year, only for children.
Twenty children have died from the flu this season. Among them, only two were fully vaccinated.
Some state health departments do keep count, and they’ve reported dozens of flu deaths so far.
The flu usually peaks in midwinter. Symptoms can include fever, cough, runny nose, head and body aches and fatigue. Some people also suffer vomiting and diarrhea, and some develop pneumonia or other severe complications.
Most people with the flu have a mild illness and can help themselves and protect others by staying home and resting. But people with severe symptoms should see a doctor. They may be given antiviral drugs or other medications to ease symptoms.
The Associated Press and staff writer Britney Tabor contributed to this report.
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6889. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.