The Lone Star State is a little under the weather.
Texas is among 10 states with widespread cases of influenza, according to a weekly surveillance report collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And a new index and interactive map premiered in November by Walgreens show Texas is the third hardest-hit state by this season’s flu strain.
“We’re getting the brunt of it right now compared to the rest of the country,” said pharmacist Kevin Atkins of Atkins Pharmacy in Marble Falls. “You don’t see too many cases in Burnet County. It’s not terrible, but we are seeing more now than two weeks ago. We’re seeing an increase. It’s here.”
Four regions in Texas show up on the list of the top 10 areas with the highest flu activity, according to the new index: Harlingen-Weslaco-Brownsville-McAllen, Laredo, Waco-Temple-Bryan, and Tyler-Longview.
The Walgreens index looked at stores that filled prescriptions for antiviral medications used to treat the flu. Walgreens launched the project six flu seasons ago, but this is the first time the public can compare flu activity data with previous seasons.
The Texas Department of State Health Services recommends everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated to prevent the flu.
“Everybody should have their flu shot by now. If they haven’t, they need to get that done,” Atkins said. “Herd immunity prevents the spread of the virus, and it protects the individual, of course.”
Tens of thousands of people die every year from the flu. The most susceptible people are young children and older adults, Atkins said.
“If you’re a middle-aged person, you’re responsible to get yourself vaccinated to prevent the spread of the flu,” Atkins said.
Aside from vaccines, standard preventative measures include frequent hand washing and covering your mouth while coughing or sneezing.
If you already have the flu, antiviral drugs could help shorten the duration or lessen the severity of the flu if started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, according to the CDC.
The components in the vaccines are updated each year to better match the viruses predicted to be circulating in the current season.
More Americans have had flu vaccinations in 2019 than all of 2018, according to the CDC. At least 61 percent reported receiving a flu shot this year, and about 31 percent more report planning to get the flu shot in December.
Visit the DSHS flu page to find where vaccines are available or for more information.