The deadly 2017-18 flu season has shuttered schools, increased employee absences, threatened the blood supply, and prompted health care providers to adjust staffing levels to keep up.
Heading into mid-February, the virus had already contributed to more than three times as many deaths as a year ago, and it didn’t appear ready to slow down.
“It is too early to tell if influenza activity has peaked for the season in Texas,” the Texas Department of State Health Services reported recently.
Through Wednesday, Dallas County Health and Human Services had already reported 67 flu-related deaths, up from 17 for the 2016-17 season. The dead, mostly older patients, all had high-risk health conditions, agency leaders said.
“Older adults, individuals with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, young children, and infants are more vulnerable to flu illness,” said Dr. Christopher Perkins, DCHHS health authority-medical director. “With influenza activity on the rise, individuals in these groups should take special precaution as we continue throughout the season.”
Medical City Healthcare is among the area hospital systems adjusting schedules and use of rooms in order to have additional staff and space available to care for flu patients.
“Most flu does have cough, congestion, and fever with it,” said Dr. Nathan Ham, emergency room medical director at Medical City Las Colinas. “And most of my patients do have significant pain in their muscles.”
But those experiencing such complications as difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, or confusion should seek emergency care, he said.
Because of privacy regulations, DCHHS doesn’t pinpoint where those who have suffered flu-related deaths lived, so it’s not known how many – if any – of the deaths involved residents of Preston Hollow.
But the area did see one of the school closures that have come during this flu epidemic.
Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas closed for two days of disinfecting in late January after more than 100 out of 1,100 students and an unreported number of faculty fell ill.
“While not all of these are confirmed cases of flu, enough members of our community are ill at this time to warrant extreme caution and a campus wide closing,” said James Kramer, director of communications.
Jan Hale, communications manager with the American Red Cross, said severe winter weather across the country and the flu epidemic have combined to slow blood donations.
“Right now, blood and platelets are being distributed to hospitals faster than they are coming in,” she said.
The agency is urging people to donate. Visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-733-2767 for an appointment.
Workplaces also are feeling the impact of the virus.
“If I counted how many clients I’ve spoken with and meetings that have been postponed recently due to this crazy flu going around I’d run out of fingers,” said Jordan Goodwin, of staffing agency Creative Circle. “With employees out, I’ve seen an influx of requests for freelance talent to take care of some of the day to day projects that would otherwise have been backed up. I kid you not – two separate flu related requests today.”
• Get a flu vaccination (yearly shots for those ages 6 months and older).
• Cover your cough with a tissue or cough into your sleeve.
• Wash your hands and keep your hands away from your face.
• Avoid close contact with people who are coughing or appear ill.
• Stay home if you are sick and keep family members home if they are sick.
Dallas County Health and Human Services