Flu Season


Nine deaths from influenza in Travis County this flu season represent just one measure of how severe the season has been.

Dr. Phil Huang, Medical Director of the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department, notes that cases started showing up earlier in the season, toward the end of 2013, and that patients under the age of 60 were among the most severely affected. 

"Definitely what we're seeing is worse than what we've seen in some past seasons," Dr. Huang said, "and also the population that's being affected with some of the more severe illness is a younger population than what we were seeing." 


The flu season has hit unusually early this year, and according to the Centers for Disease Control, Texas is one of the states hardest hit. Physicians are urging everyone to get a flu shot. 

Typically, the flu season peaks in January, but so far this year at least five deaths have already occurred in Texas. At a press conference Monday, medical experts at Seton Medical Center Austin said the number of positive flu tests has doubled over the past two weeks.

Dr. Irfan Hydari, the medical director of emergency services at Seton, said the flu strand that is responsible for the vast majority of illnesses is H1N1, or swine flu. That strand became notorious in 2009 when it caused a flu pandemic

But Hydari said vaccine technology continues to improve, and this year it has been adapted to combat H1N1.


An early, widespread flu outbreak in Texas is putting a strain on the supply of the antiviral drug Tamiflu, a Texas Department of State Health Services spokesperson said Wednesday.

Tamiflu is a prescription drug that both fights flu symptoms and prevents the spread of the flu to the rest of the body. But because of Texas’ flu outbreak, Texas Department of State Health Services spokesperson Chris Van Deusen said there are small spot shortages of the drug.

CDC/ Judy Schmidt

Hospitals and clinics in Austin and Travis County are reporting high levels of flu activity. Across Texas, six kids have died so far this year from flu-related illnesses.

Doctors say the best way to protect yourself is to get a flu shot.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Hispanics are 10 percent less likely to get vaccinated than non-Hispanic whites. According to a CDC survey, in March of 2012, less than 40 percent of Hispanic adults had been vaccinated. That's compared to around 50 percent of non-Hispanic white adults.

This year's flu season started about a month early, prompting federal health officials to warn it could be one of the worst in years. They're urging everyone to get their flu shots.

But like every flu season, there are lots of reports of people complaining that they got their shot but still got the flu. What's up with that?

Well, as Michael Jhung of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains, there are lots of possible reasons.