After weeks without any confirmed fatalities, Tarrant County is now reporting five flu-related deaths, and there could be more. But the county is having a hard time tracking the cases.
Most of the victims were in their 30s or 40s, and there were no children among the cases.
All but one person had other significant health problems, and only one received a flu shot.
One death goes back to at least December, but the majority were reported to the health department in recent days.
Dallas County has the highest number of reported deaths this season, with 26.
"We know about these five deaths, but I can't say that's all the deaths," said chief epidemiologist Russell Jones. "In fact, I'm sure they're not."
The Tarrant County Health Department hopes the problem will soon change. It knows about flu deaths only if hospitals and health facilities report them, and that, says Jones, skews the numbers.
"Adult death due to flu is not required to be reported in the State of Texas, so the reports we're getting are voluntary reports by infection, prevention or hospitals, and our medical examiner will report to us as well," said Jones.
The problem, says Jones, is that if people see low flu death numbers and think there's no threat, they'll likely not get a flu shot.
"If you're very sick, flu in general will tend to be the last insult that you'll experience, and it can put you over the edge," said Jones.
Before the pandemic of 2009, flu deaths had to be reported by health agencies and hospitals. But then the state lifted that rule.
Dallas, however, gets a lot more voluntary reporting from its hospitals than other counties.
Therefore, its numbers are higher, and that reporting increase is something Jones hopes will change in Tarrant County.
"Probably at the end of the season, we'll be looking at how to do severity measures, getting with our hospitals, our infectious prevention," said Jones. "Their time is not unlimited, and ask them what's doable and what they think would be the best way of looking at their data"
KDFW FOX 4
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