UPDATE: H1N1 on the rise; second person dies in Gregg County
POSTED: Friday, December 20, 2013 - 11:48am
UPDATED: Friday, December 20, 2013 - 6:31pm
Tyler (KETK) — Although the World Health Organization announced the H1N1 pandemic ended in August 2010, the virus has lingered ever since, and two deaths have been reported in East Texas: a second person died on Friday as a result of H1N1 in Gregg County, According to the Northeast Texas Public Health District.
As of week 49, or December 2-8 of this year, more than 40 East Texas cases of H1N1 showed positive results through a "rapid test." While the rapid test is usually accurate, it can produce a false negative. Therefore, the true number of cases are not known, according to Director of Public Health Emergency Preparedness Russell Hopkins.
Hopkins believes the dramatic increase in H1N1 can be attributed to several factors.
"I believe that the evidence points to weather. The icy weather drove everyone indoors. People are out shopping, people are out doing things, but they are also being driven inside because of rain or sleet or whatever. So, now, they are in close proximity of each other. That's how it spreads."
H1N1 is "odd' in that it targets demographics the seasonal flu doesn't, Hopkins told KETK. Pregnant women and middle age people without chronic diseases are attacked by the virus. Babies and the elderly are generally targeted by the seasonal strain.
Hopkins also stated H1N1 can definitely kill. Out of the reported cases in the East Texas area, two people have died. Six people have been killed and 14 left critically ill in the Houston area, according to KHOU.
Health officials have also reported a "mystery illness" in Conroe, Texas, which is believed to be H1N1. There are also cases in the Beaumont area that have not yet been sequenced in a lab, but are suspected to be the deadly strain.
According to Hopkins, Texas moved from "widespread" to "full activity" in the past week, which means the number of counties affected changed from "most" to "all." In the East Texas Region, all 35 counties are affected.
Health officials have stressed to the public to get a vaccine, which still covers the H1N1 strain left over from 2009. More importantly, people are encouraged to wash their hands, clean surfaces and stay home when sick.
Physicians have been asked to attack things differently than in 2009-2010. This time around, patients will be given the antiviral almost immediately for better prevention, said Hopkins.
A new report on the latest flu numbers are slated to be released sometime Friday, December 20.
The figure map below shows current flu activity in Texas.