Top Stories: Flu Deaths In Texas Double; How Mentors Help Keep Students In School | KERA News

Top Stories: Flu Deaths In Texas Double; How Mentors Help Keep Students In School

Jan 23, 2018

The top local stories this evening from KERA News:

The number of Texans dying from a flu-related cause has now doubled over the past two weeks. In the most active flu season in recent years, 2,355 Texans have died from flu-related causes – with 60 deaths in North Texas alone.

“Last year we had over 9,500 deaths from flu, so it’s not uncommon for there to be thousands of deaths in Texas from flu,” said Lara Anton, who’s with the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Anton said people in high-risk categories need to take the flu threat seriously – including children under five, adults over 65, people with chronic health conditions and women who are pregnant.

Forty-three flu-related deaths have been reported in Dallas County so far – eight in Tarrant County, three in Denton County and six deaths in Collin County.

Several health experts have said the area should expect to see new flu cases starting to wane. Dr. Jeffrey Tessier, an infectious disease specialist at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, said it’s hard to tell when flu season will peak – but based on surveillance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it seems that the area might be approaching that point.

“A lot of that probably has to do with population dynamics of the virus. As it spreads through the population, you reach a transition point where many more people are immune to the virus than are not immune to the virus, so it just doesn’t have any more hosts to infect,” Tessier said. “There will probably still be some pockets here and there of people who didn’t get vaccinated or late exposures, but probably at this point, most of the people who were going to get infected have been exposed and infected. That immunity will help the population until the next year’s round of the virus.”

Other stories this evening:

  • Today's calm winds helped ease the wildfire threat across parts of the state, which forced evacuations of some homes and parts of two interstates. Still, the forecast calls for more wildfires in parts of Texas.
  • The 2015 Supreme Court ruling that made same-sex marriage legal was a watershed moment for LGBTQ rights. Writer Fenton Johnson worries, though, that many activists have "settled" for the right to marry instead of continuing to push for radical change. Today on Think, he talked with Krys Boyd about why the fight for LGBTQ civil rights is far from over. Johnson's essay "The Future of Queer" appears in Harper's Magazine.
  • Fewer than 40 percent of community college students get a degree within six years – and low-income students are even more at risk of dropping out. As part of KERA’s One Crisis Away project, looking at life on the financial edge, Courtney Collins reports on a Catholic Charities Fort Worth program that evaluates whether a mentor makes a difference when it comes to staying in school.

You can listen to North Texas stories weekdays at 8:22 a.m. and 6:20 p.m. on KERA 90.1 FM.