A lab technician at Scott & White Hospital tests a sample to determine whether it’s positive for flu. (Photo by Rachel Cox)
(December 19, 2013) Health officials in Bell and McLennan Counties say they’ve seen a spike in flu cases and they warned residents Thursday to get vaccinated now.
Lacey Sanders of the Bell County Public Health District said this week alone 146 confirmed cases of flu have been reported and of those 60 involve the H1N1 virus.
Nine people have been hospitalized since last week and health officials are investigating the death of an adult in Holland that may be related to the illness, she said.
In McLennan County the numbers are higher.
The Waco-McLennan County Public Health District reported 29 cases three weeks ago, 113 more cases two weeks ago and 344 cases last week.
Kelly Craine with the McLennan County Public Health District said the same spike is being reported around the state and the country, but said health officials haven’t seen a comparable increase in H1N1 cases since 2009.
Both Craine and Sanders said this year the illness is more aggressive and is spreading more quickly.
Craine said it's still not too late to get a flu shot.
Health officials say in particular that pregnant women, the elderly, and children should be vaccinated.
In 2009, the last time H1N1 was a major problem, some pregnant women across the country checked into hospitals to have their babies, but never left because they passed away after contracting the illness which can cause major complications, Craine said.
Sanders said the flu shot requires about two weeks for the body to build immunity against the illness and the flu mist requires about a week.
Health officials said they're also concerned about the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and have seen an increase in those cases as well.
RSV impacts young children usually and can affect the respiratory system.
There have been 216 confirmed RSV cases.
Since September there have been three RSV outbreaks in Bell County, one at a daycare center and two at nursing homes.
At the daycare, every child contracted the virus, Sanders said, and some workers and parents also got sick.
Health officials say there is a shot that children at extremely high risk could get to help them from contracting the illness.
The shot is only recommended for infants born prematurely, suffering from chronic heart conditions.