Flu outbreak hits North Texas one month early at 'worst time'

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by STEVE STOLER

WFAA

Posted on December 22, 2012 at 5:09 PM

FORT WORTH -- Dallas County reported it first flu death of the season Friday. The victim was a woman in her 60's.

Doctors say the flu season started early, and is hitting hard. The emergency room at Cook Children's Medical Center was packed with parents who brought in their sick kids for treatment and tests.

The flu outbreak could not have come at a worse time. It's the holidays, when there are large gatherings of families and friends, all in close quarters. Doctors at Cook Children's are urging people with mild cases to stay at home.

Alicia Vallejo has big holiday plans with family. But now her focus is on her daughter Jaedyn, who has all the classic symptoms of the flu. She brought Jaedyn to a crowded emergency room at Cook Children's where she waited almost five hours to see a doctor.

"She has congestion, runny nose, fever, stomach cramps," her mother said.

Jaedyn's flu could throw a wrench into the family's plans to share the holiday with their extended family.

"We'll be with a lot of kids," Vallejo said. "Her dad's side of the family has a lot of children, so we're trying to prevent that from getting to them."

The Cook Childrens pediatricians say the flu outbreak started a month early this year. And there are several straings of flu virus that are circulating at the same time. The doctors are seeing kids with Flu A, Flu B, and RSV.

Dr. Donald Murphey said the hospital doesn't have the space to treat both serious and mild cases.

"If you have mild disease, we would prefer if you reserve the emergency room for people who are very sick," Murphey said.

Brittny Hatton's four-year-old son, Jordan, has a fever, sore throat, stuffy nose, an ear ache and a cough. Her two-year-old daughter, Journee, is feeling under the weather, too.

"We don't really have any out of town plans or vacations," Hatton said. "We just mainly want to get outside so we can enjoy the presents we got them."

The doctor's advice for mild flu: stay away from people, drink lots of fluids, take Tylenol or ibubrofen, cover your cough and wash your hands regularly. You should be better in a few days.

The best way to prevent the flu is by getting immunized as soon as possible. The physicians said there's still plenty of flu vaccine around and it's very safe.

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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