RUNNELS COUNTY - The flu outbreak nationwide and across the state, has hit Runnels County hard, with Center For Disease Control calling this flu season one of the worst in years.

RUNNELS COUNTY - The flu outbreak nationwide and across the state, has hit Runnels County hard, with Center For Disease Control calling this flu season one of the worst in years.

Area health providers say the most significant outbreak occurred before the Christmas break, and that Type A and Type B influenza strains are being diagnosed.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, Influenza activity remains high across the state of Texas. Compared to the previous week, the percentage of patient visits due to influenza-like illness (ILI) and the percentage of specimens testing positive for influenza reported by public health and hospital laboratories has marginally increased. One influenza-associated pediatric death was reported.

“This is the worst flu season I have seen in my 30-plus years as a doctor,” said Dr. Bradly Bundrant, chief of staff at Ballinger Memorial Hospital. “I have the impression that our experience locally is typical, and certainly better than some other communities.”

Bundrant said this outbreak of Type A influenza this year is worse than the H1N1 (swine flu) virus of nine years ago. From Dec. 11, 2017 to Jan. 15, Bundrant said there have been 59 patients test positive through Ballinger Memorial Hospital District with Type A and 12 positive cases of Type B, influenza.

Tami Halfmann, FNP at North Runnels Clinic in Winters agreed that the outbreak in December was worse in Runnels County. In December, North Runnels Clinic treated 141 cases and 60 cases in January.

“About one week after school returned to session, we started seeing cases trickle in again,” Halfmann said. “While our numbers are not as high as they were in December, we are still seeing a lot of cases. We have seen primarily Type B by clinical diagnosis.”

The Type B symptoms are more mild than the Type A strand, Halfmann said.

“We have seen low-grade fever, body aches, chills, cough, and even sore throat and nausea and vomiting as presenting symptoms,” she said.

Fortunately, area school districts have not been as hard hit as some districts in the state. All of the campus health professionals agree that the worst outbreak was in December. However, in Olfen ISD last week, there were 21 of the 98 students out sick.

“They weren’t all flu, but most of them were,” said Jacalyn Pruser, LVN who is the school nurse there. “It was bad last week but it has subsided.”

Pruser said they have been on top of cleaning and disinfecting door knobs and desks and encouraging students to be aware and wash frequently.

The key is keeping clean and they have at Winters ISD where Superintendent Bruce Davis call the flu a “non issue at this point.” The district has been using GermBlast, which is a comprehensive disinfection program designed to reduce illness, particularly in school districts.

Janice Travis, RN, the school nurse for Ballinger ISD said the outbreak has subsided since December.

“We were hardest hit in December,” Travis said. “It was really bad.”

Travis said parents are asked to keep a child home until they have not presented fever or symptoms for 24 hours.

At Miles ISD, most of the flu cases were reported after Christmas, reported Alec Hickey, RN, the school nurse.

“We sent fliers home with students to inform parents,” Hickey said.

Most healthcare professionals are treating with Tamiflu. Halfmann said that is what she prescribes. The CDC recommends that at risk patients, including children and the elderly, should be treated as soon as possible with the antiviral medication.

Local pharmacists say Tamiflu is available even though there have been more prescriptions written.

“We had a lot more (Tamiflu prescribed) this year than in the previous two years,” said Beth Edington, pharmacist at Keel Drug in Ballinger. “But we have an adequate supply.”

Bundrant stressed that patients can get both strains of the virus as well and that if you have not had the flu, it is still a good idea to get a flu shot.

The DSHS in Winters, which has a vaccination clinic in Ballinger, still has an ample supply of flu vaccine, but there are specific requirements for those who qualify to get the vaccine. The vaccine is also available at area clinics.