The Associated Press

byMerrill Hope29 Dec 2017Tyler, TX0

A new report says that Texas is the U.S. state hardest hit by the flu so far this season with widespread outbreaks.

Texas ranked first in the nation for flu activity, according to the latest data from Walgreens, the pharmacy giant with more than 8,000 retail outlets nationwide. Each year, they compile a weekly flu index based on prescription sales of antiviral medications used to treat influenza. These findings do not measure severity of flu cases.

The Lone Star State, in fact, has dominated the unenviable top spot since the pharmacy launched its weekly index for the 2017-18 flu season. Arkansas and Tennessee, respectively, consistently have held second and third place. For this final week of 2017, the 10 states combating the most number of flu cases are Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, West Virginia, Nebraska, Iowa, Idaho, Montana, Oklahoma, and North Carolina.

For the week ending December 23, Walgreens also compiled the top 10 states with the most increases of influenza. They are Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, West Virginia, Idaho, Nebraska, Montana, Iowa, Louisiana, and Arizona.

The index shows that within the Lone Star State, the flu continues to pound East Texas followed by South Texas, although the effects of influenza are felt around the state. In Dallas County, the Department of Health and Human Services reported five flu-related deaths this season plus an influenza A (H3N2) outbreak in a long term care facility.

The Walgreens Flu Index also examined influenza rates via designated market areas (DMA) across the country. Eight of the 10 were in Texas.

  1. Tyler-Longview (Lufkin & Nacogdoches), Texas
  2. Harlingen-Weslaco-Brownsville-McAllen, Texas
  3. Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas
  4. Houston, Texas
  5. Waco-Temple-Bryan, Texas
  6. Corpus Christi, Texas
  7. Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas
  8. Little Rock-Pine Bluff, Arkansas
  9. San Antonio, Texas
  10. Fort Smith-Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Arkansas

Influenza is a contagious respiratory viral illness. Symptoms usually start suddenly and may include fever, body aches, chills, a dry cough, sore throat, runny nose, headaches, and fatigue, which can last a week or longer. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) urges Texans six months and older to get a flu shot, noting pregnant women, young children, older adults, and people with chronic health conditions are at a greater risk for complications should they contract the flu. The department says people can help stop the spread of the flu and reduce their chances of getting the virus through vaccination, washing hands frequently, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying at home when sick. DSHS spokeswoman Lara Anton told Breitbart Texas that “about 89 percent of the flu tests run in (Texas) public health labs have been influenza A (H3N2) virus.”

Scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) noted, in recent years, the flu vaccine has been 50 to 70 percent effective. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said they anticipate this season’s flu strains to mirror many of the same ones that circulated among the U.S. population last year when the vaccine was about 39 percent effective. However, reports that the flu vaccine may only be 10 percent effective this year began to circulate after a mutated version of the H3N2 virus wreaked havoc in Australia.

Regardless, public health officials advise getting a flu shot. Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the Texas Children’s Hospital, told Dallas news radio KRLD that even if the flu shot does not prevent catching the virus, it could minimize the risk for flu-related complications like respiratory infections.

Flu season usually peaks between December and January.

Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.

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