By JACK GRAY
The flu outbreak that has resulted in an abnormally high number of hospitalizations and approximately 30 deaths in North Texas has claimed its first Hunt County victim.
Hunt Regional Medical Center at Greenville has confirmed that an elderly female patient who did not receive the influenza vaccine succumbed to Type B influenza last week. She was considered a high risk patient.
Pam Andrews, RN, medical manager for the Hunt County Health Department located in Greenville, said that she is aware of only one flu-related death of a person over 65 in Hunt County during the current flu season.
She was unable to confirm if any H1N1 cases have occurred in the county, but indicated that flu positive rapid test results have been “mostly type A.”
As of Jan. 11, 30 deaths from the flu had been reported in North Texas, 26 of them in Dallas County. Dallas County Health and Human Services confirmed nine new deaths.
Most of those deaths were the result of the H1N1 virus, a Type A flu commonly referred to as swine flu because it is a viral strain that originated in the pig population. This strain is different than the Type B flu that was responsible for the Hunt County death.
The H1N1 virus remains the greatest source of concern. It is the more virulent strain and has been a source of infection for young and middle age adults who typically are more resistant to influenza.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, typical symptoms of H1N1 influenza include fever, cough or chest discomfort, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue or extreme exhaustion, and, frequently, diarrhea and vomiting.
According to some medical practitioners, difficulty in breathing or the feeling of being winded can be a critical signal to seek further medical treatment without delay.
While the flu season usually peaks between mid-February and March, some reports suggest that the H1N1 this year may remain active well into the warm weather season.
The best way to prevent the flu is by getting immunized as soon as possible. Other prevention measures include:
Cover the nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and then dispose of the tissue;
Wash hands often with soap and water;
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth as germs spread through that contact. If signs of the flu are evident, the CDC also recommends staying home from work or school to limit contact with others.
The Health Department recommends influenza vaccinations for those who have not yet received one. Vaccine remains available at some pharmacies, doctors’ offices and through the Health Department, although anyone seeking a vaccination should check with the facility in advance to determine availability of the vaccine qualifications to receive it.