Dallas County health officials announced late Friday that an 89-year-old Dallas resident is the sixth person in the county to succumb to the flu this month. Dallas County Health and Human Services doesn't release any additional information about virus or infection victims.
Each of the six Dallas County deaths this season have occurred in January. Christopher Perkins, the county's medical director, urged Dallas County residents to protect themselves while the flu virus is still active in the county.
“We cannot predict the intensity, severity or duration of the flu season from year to year,” Perkins said. “The best way to protect yourself and others is to get your seasonal flu shot.”
Last year's flu season hit Dallas County quicker and with more force, claiming its sixth victim on Jan. 2, 2018. Before flu season ended in May, 83 people, including four kids, were dead from the disease.
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“Getting your seasonal flu shot is your first line of defense against the flu virus, especially if you have underlying medical conditions,” interim DCHHS Director Ganesh Shivaramaiyer said. “Practicing good hygiene, which includes frequent hand-washing, covering your coughs/sneezes with a tissue or into your elbow and staying home if you have flu-like symptoms."
To that end, the county is offering free flu shots for children at all six of its immunization clinics and free flu shots for adults at DCHHS headquarters on Stemmons Freeway. Next week, free shots will be available at Paul Quinn College on Simpson Stuart Road on Thursday and at the NTX Fest at Fair Park on Friday. On Feb. 15, shots will be available at the Pleasant Grove library on Lake June Road.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says flu season runs from about September to May. Most years in Texas, a number called the ILI percentage — the number of patients doctors see with flu-like symptoms — checks in at about 2 percent or 3 percent during the offseason and crests to about 6 percent during the worst of the flu season. Last year, according to a model developed at Carnegie Mellon University, Texas' ILI percentage rose as high as 15 percent during the height of flu season.
This season, the number of patients reporting flu-like symptoms has stayed lower, coming in at about 6 percent during the last week of January.