5 flu-related deaths confirmed in Houston area

By Cory McCord - Digital News Editor, Brandon Walker - Reporter

HOUSTON - Two women in their 60s have died from the flu, according to the Houston Health Department.

One woman died in November and the other died last month.

"Nearly 13 percent of the people showing up to emergency rooms [in the Houston area] are due to flu-like symptoms," said Porfirio Villarreal, spokesperson, city of Houston Health Department.

Montgomery County health officials confirmed a man in his 70s died Jan. 9 due to the flu.

Harris County officials confirmed two additional deaths that are considered flu-related.

While flu-related deaths are not uncommon,  the number of people being treated for the virus this season is, say officials.

In the Houston area, nearly 42 percent of emergency room visits for flu-related symptoms have been from children, ages 4 and under.

READ: What you need to know about flu season in Houston

Officials stress the best line of defense is a flu shot.

"Basically, everyone 6 months and older needs a flu shot," Villarreal said.

The Houston Independent School District said its nurses have reported 421 students with flu-like symptoms since the beginning of the school year, but only 118 have been confirmed flu cases.

Seventy percent of the confirmed cases were diagnosed in November and December, the district said.

HISD reported 16 students with flu-like symptoms this year, but only one has been confirmed as the flu.

Baylor College of Medicine physician assistant, Isabel Valdez, said a healthy practice to avoid the flu is good, long hand-washing, but the best prevention is the flu vaccine no matter what some reports may say about its effectiveness.

READ: Got the flu? Here's how to recover

“The concern we have for this year is that the flu shot is not protecting us as well as it could have… there are studies that are suggesting that is not matching the infections that are out there this season because of the mismatch we might not have the full on immunity that we could've had from years past but even a little bit of protection from the flu shot on the strains that are not there might actually still help,” Valdez said. “Your body will recognize the foreign object as soon as it is exposed to it. So, if your body recognizes the flu, something that resembles the flu virus even, if it's not the exact match but it still resembles the flu virus, it will help launch a defense against it. It launches an arsenal to try and help your body.”

See a map of flu cases around Houston:

Copyright 2018 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.