Tarrant County Public Health detecting possible flu cases despite declining instances of illness

Flu stretches from October to mid-May.

Flu stretches from October to mid-May.

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The flu and you
Tarrant County Public Health has seen sporadic levels of influenza-like illness, or ILI, according to the county’s most recent flu report dated from May 19-25. Tarrant County received patient data from 18 hospitals and two colleges or universities, one clinic and one business for that specific time period.

“Sporadic means we’re still getting positive flu [samples] in the county, but we’re not seeing increased ILI numbers,” said Laura Lockwood, influenza surveillance specialist for Tarrant County.

Individual cases of flu are not required to be reported, so public health officials track cases of patients with flu symptoms or ILI, she said.

Tarrant County typically receives reports from participating facilities, including hospitals, clinics or school districts of potential flu cases, Lockwood said. The number of facilities that report to the county varies week by week.

“Flu season actually stretches from October until about mid-May, but the increase in flu, which people will refer to as ‘flu season,’ can occur at any time during those months,” she said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll see high flu numbers during all of those months.”

Flu reports peaked in late December when 8% of patients seen in the facilities that report to Tarrant County presented an influenza-like illness, or ILI. The rate of these sick patients declined before it rose to a smaller peak in February when about 6% of reported patients presented an ILI. That number has steadily dropped closer to 1% as of May 25. Experts typically see less ILI cases in the summer.

If someone does contract the flu, his or her immune system becomes weakened, Lockwood said. That person is more susceptible to other illnesses and may develop a secondary infection.

“That’s why it’s really important to communicate with our doctors if they are having those symptoms,” she said. “Because if they are prescribed an antiviral like Tamiflu, it works best when it’s prescribed earlier on in the illness.”

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