The Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS) issued a health advisory last week due to influenza. Influenza activity has been increasing in Dallas County, with greater than 10% of influenza tests in area hospitals reported positive for the past two consecutive weeks.

Image/DCHHS Twitter
Image/DCHHS Twitter

The first two influenza-associated deaths of the 2016-2017 season and an influenza outbreak in a long term care facility have also been confirmed this week. The 95-year-old and 89- year-old residents of Dallas died after complications from the seasonal flu.

“Our sympathies go to the families and loved ones of the individuals who has passed away,” said DCHHS Director Zachary Thompson. “These deaths are an unfortunate reminder that the flu virus is circulating in Dallas County, and does have the potential to cause severe illness and death.”

Influenza A (H3N2) viruses have been reported most frequently nationally and locally this season. In past seasons when influenza A (H3N2) viruses have predominated, higher mortality rates and hospitalization rates have been noted.

DCHHS offers the following recommendations to health providers:

  • Clinicians should encourage all patients 6 months of age and older who have not yet received an influenza vaccine this season to be vaccinated against influenza.
  • Clinicians should encourage all persons with influenza-like illness who are at high risk for influenza complications to seek medical care promptly to determine if treatment with influenza antiviral medications is warranted.
  • Decisions about starting antiviral treatment should not wait for laboratory confirmation of influenza. Rapid influenza diagnostic tests (RIDTs) have limited sensitivities; negative RIDT results do not exclude influenza infection in patients with compatible symptoms.
  • Antiviral therapy with oseltamivir or zanamivir is recommended as soon as possible, regardless of negative RIDT results, for any patient with suspected influenza who is hospitalized, has severe illness, or is at high risk for influenza complications. Treatment can also be considered on the basis of clinical judgment for any previously healthy, symptomatic outpatient who is not considered “high risk” with suspected influenza, if treatment can be initiated within 48 hours of illness.
  • Consider antibiotic therapy in influenza patients with suspected bacterial co-infections. Pneumonia with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and group A Streptococcus have been reported in cases of severe illnesses.
  • Remind parents of children with suspected influenza to adhere to school illness policies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine for all persons aged 6 months and older, with rare exception. Individuals should discuss flu vaccine concerns with a health care provider.

The flu vaccine DCHHS provides is an all-in-one shot that protects against multiple flu strains including the H1N1 virus.