The worst flu season in recent memory finally appears on its way out the door in North Texas, according to new statistics from Dallas County Health and Human Services. Only five Dallas County residents were hospitalized for the flu during the week ending April 15, and for the second week in a row, no one in the county died from the flu.
The slowdown in activity comes after 82 Dallas County residents, including three children, died of the flu during the 2017-18 season. The greatest number of flu-related deaths during the previous five flu seasons in Dallas County was 58 in 2013-14. Statewide, more than 7,000 children and adults died from the flu this year.
According to a model developed by a Carnegie Mellon University team, Texas' ILI percentage — the estimated percentage of patients visiting doctors during a given time presenting flu-like symptoms — was more than 13 percent at the height of this year's flu season in January, the highest it's been during the last two decades. A typical flu season sees its ILI crest at about 6 percent. According to the Carnegie Mellon team's latest numbers, it is now below 4 percent.
While comparing flu seasons over different eras is difficult because of changes in record-keeping standards, it's not hard to pinpoint the worst flu outbreak in Dallas and the rest of the United States. One hundred years ago, the Spanish flu wreaked havoc around the world. In the city of Dallas, at least 450 people died from the flu, according to the The Dallas Morning News.
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As flu season winds down, Dallas County's other yearly heath menace, West Nile virus, is set to make its annual visit. At a press conference earlier this month, Dallas County heath officials and County Commissioner John Wiley Price urged both the media and the public to take the threat of West Nile seriously, despite the fact that its presence in the county isn't new.
"I think the public fails to realize the real impact of this virus," Price said. "We take for granted it's just a mosquito bite. We take for granted it's just West Nile. We've been talking about this for decades now. Ladies and gentleman, this is deadly serious."
Health officials at the press conference couldn't say whether this year's mosquito season will be especially bad. They said regardless, Dallas County residents should drain standing water, use mosquito repellent that has DEET and wear long-sleeved, loose-fitting closing, especially at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most prevalent.