If you’re searching for a stocking stuffer, flu medicine might not be a bad idea. Normally flu cases in North Texas spike after the Christmas holidays. This year, the virus has come early.
Dallas County Health and Human Services reported a steady rise of positive flu tests, which ramped up to a quarter of people tested over Thanksgiving week.
So far, there’s been one flu-related death in Dallas County.
In Tarrant County, there have been two flu-related deaths. The early uptick in positive flu tests concerns Vinnie Taneja, Tarrant County's public health director.
“We’re almost three weeks ahead of time for flu activity to start picking up,” Taneja says. "That gives flu more time to be spreading.”
There are lots of reasons why this flu season could be hitting earlier than usual – from weather to the number of people who didn’t get flu shots this year. Taneja says another factor has to do with a strain of the flu virus that is not covered by this season’s vaccine.
“So the vaccine that we have has influenza H-3-N-2, but half of the strains that are out there right now are a different kind," he says.
Still, getting vaccinated is the best way for people to protect themselves — and others — from getting the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all Americans age six months and older receive a flu vaccination every year.
Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that there have been no flu-related deaths in Tarrant County. There have been two flu-related deaths.