AUSTIN, Texas — With at least 9.7 million flu illnesses in the U.S., health officials say flu season is in full swing.
Nationwide, more than 4,800 people have died from the flu. Health officials report 32 pediatric deaths in the U.S. Eight of the kids were in Texas.
"We've had thousands of deaths nationwide when we look at all the deaths. And this was somewhat expected. We know that Australia had a bad flu season last year. We know they had an early rise two months earlier than usual," said Dr. Mark Escott with Austin Public Health. "So, we did expect this to happen this year, which is why we have been trying to get folks to get their flu shots."
So far, there have not been any flu-related deaths in Travis County. However, Dr. Escott warns there are still five months left in flu season.
"Last week we saw a substantial increase in ER visits. In fact, we had some ERs that were at 170% to 190% capacity. Part of that was due to the fact that folks with mild cases of the flu were going to the ER," said Dr. Escott. "So it’s critical to remember – if you have a mild case of the flu, you're otherwise healthy. Talk to your doctor, use your telehealth resources or urgent care to manage that flu."
Dr. Escott said if you show severe symptoms, then you should head to the ER.
He said severe symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Substantial difficulty breathing
- High fever that won't break
"Flu can kill people and that is really an important message. It's also important for folks to remember that it's not just how it's going to affect them, but how it's going to affect other people that you expose to the flu," said Escott.
He said kids and seniors are more likely to undergo complications from the flu.
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