We are entering the peak of flu season
DSHS Commissioner urges people to take precautions to avoid getting the flu
State Health Officials are now investigating six measles cases among unvaccinated people in Ellis County. The Texas Department of State Health Services is advising health care providers in the area to take precautions and consider measles as a possible diagnosis in patients with a fever and rash in addition to a cough, runny nose or conjunctivitis.
The highly contagious nature of measles means it’s possible more cases will occur in the community. People involved in the outbreak have connections to Waxahachie and Midlothian.
DSHS first notified the public on Friday of possible measles exposures after a contagious person attended the ShowBiz Cinemas in Waxahachie on Tuesday, Jan. 9. Five additional cases have been reported since; none of them are connected to the movie theater. People who went to the theater on that day should continue to monitor themselves for measles symptoms through Jan. 30.
It usually takes about two weeks from the time someone is exposed to the measles virus for a rash to develop, but it can take as long as three weeks. People are contagious from four days before they get a rash to four days after it appears and should isolate themselves at home during that period, except to seek medical treatment. The rash usually begins on the face as flat, red spots and then spreads down the neck and trunk to the rest of the body. Other symptoms include a high fever over 101 degrees, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes.
Anyone with these symptoms who thinks they may have been exposed to measles should contact their health care provider and tell them about the exposure. It’s important to call in advance so the provider can take precautions to help prevent staff and other patients from being exposed to measles.
DSHS today issued a health advisory for health care facilities and providers in the area reminding them of proper infection control, testing and treatment practices for measles.
(Special message from DSHS) With influenza continuing to be widespread throughout Texas, the Texas Department of State Health Services reminds people to take precautions to avoid getting and spreading the disease. The state health commissioner, Dr. John Hellerstedt, filmed two short messages encouraging everyone 6 months old and older to get vaccinated and stressing the importance of good hygiene.
Vaccination can provide protection against flu as long as flu viruses are spreading and causing illness. Vaccination is especially important for adults over 65, children under 5, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions because they are at greater risk of developing serious complications from the flu. People can find out where flu shots are available at texasflu.org or by contacting their health care provider.
Influenza is a contagious disease caused by one of a number of related viruses. Flu symptoms may include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches and fatigue. The onset of symptoms is sudden and people should stay home until at least 24 hours after their fever is gone except to get medical care. People experiencing symptoms are encouraged to seek treatment promptly. Antiviral drugs may shorten the duration or lessen the severity of the flu if started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.
People can help stop the spread of flu by getting vaccinated, washing hands frequently, covering coughs and sneezes and staying home when they’re sick.
View the messages from Dr. Hellerstedt:
Influenza (Flu) Overview
Every year in the United States, millions of people get sick with influenza (the flu). Influenza epidemics in the U.S. usually occur during the winter months. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 23,607 (range 3,349-48,614) influenza-associated deaths and over 200,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations occur every year in the United States. The highest rates of influenza infection occur among children, but the risks for serious health problems, hospitalizations, and deaths from influenza are higher among people 65 years of age or older, young children, pregnant women, and people of any age who have medical conditions that place them at increased risk for complications from influenza. Anyone though, including healthy people, can get influenza, and serious health problems from influenza can occur at any age. The severity of an influenza season varies from year to year and depends on many things, including the strains of circulating influenza viruses, how much flu vaccine is available, when the vaccine is available, how well the flu vaccine is matched to flu viruses that are causing illness, and the levels of protective antibody in the population.
A primary feature of the influenza virus is that it regularly undergoes genetic and/or recombination changes, which if dramatic enough, can result in the creation of an influenza virus never seen before in humans. Since the population would not have antibody protection against this new form of influenza virus, and if it were highly contagious and infectious, the potential for a worldwide epidemic (pandemic) would be increased. During most pandemics in the past, the rates of illnesses and deaths from influenza-related health problems have increased dramatically worldwide. During the 1918-19 “Spanish Flu” pandemic, it is estimated that ≈50 million deaths occurred worldwide, including over a half-million Americans. Influenza can have a very serious and severe impact on public health.
About Influenza (Flu)
Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. There are three types of influenza viruses: A, B, and C. Influenza type A viruses can infect people, birds, pigs, horses, seals, cats, whales, and other animals, but wild birds are the natural hosts for these viruses. Influenza A viruses are divided into subtypes based on two proteins on the surface of the virus. Only some influenza A subtypes (i.e., H1N1 and H3N2) are currently in general circulation among people. Other subtypes are found most commonly in other animal species. Influenza B viruses are normally found only in humans. Unlike influenza A viruses, these viruses are not classified according to subtype. Although influenza B viruses can cause human epidemics, they have not caused pandemics. Influenza type C viruses cause mild illness in humans and are not thought to cause epidemics.
Influenza is not the same illness as a cold. Different viruses cause colds. Influenza tends to be worse than the common cold, and symptoms such as fever and body aches are more common and intense. Colds are usually milder than the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia. Influenza attacks the respiratory tract of the nose, throat, and lungs. Cold viruses attack the mucous linings of the nose and throat. Sometimes, cold viruses attack the eye.
Organism, Causative Agent, or Etiologic Agent
Symptoms and ILI Definition
Influenza usually comes on suddenly, one to four days after the virus enters the body, and may include these symptoms:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Tiredness (can be extreme)Among children, otitis media (ear infection), nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are common. Some infected persons are asymptomatic.Influenza-like illness, or ILI, is defined as fever ≥100°F AND cough and/or sore throat (in the absence of a known cause other than influenza).
Human to Human
Influenza viruses are spread from person to person by respiratory droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks in close proximity to an uninfected person. Sometimes, influenza viruses are spread when a person touches a surface with influenza viruses on it (e.g., a doorknob), and then touches his or her own nose or mouth.
Most healthy adults who are ill with influenza may be able to infect other people beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children and persons with weakened immune systems might be able to infect other people for even a longer period of time. The virus can also be spread by people who are infected but have no symptoms.
Influenza A Viruses Between Animals and Humans
Influenza A viruses normally seen in one species sometimes can cross over and cause illness in another species. Influenza viruses from different species can mix and create a new influenza A virus if viruses from two different species infect the same person or animal. For example, if a pig were infected with a human influenza virus and an avian influenza virus at the same time, the viruses could reassort (exchange genetic material) and produce a new virus. The resulting new virus might then be able to infect humans and spread from person to person, but it would have surface proteins not previously seen in influenza viruses that infect humans. Most people would have little or no immunity against this type of major change in the influenza A virus. If this new virus caused illness in people and was transmitted easily from person to person, an influenza pandemic could occur. It also is possible that the process of reassortment could occur in a human. For example, a person could be infected with an avian influenza strain and a human strain of influenza at the same time. These viruses could reassort to create a new virus that had a protein from the avian virus and other genes from the human virus. While it is unusual for people to get influenza infections directly from animals, sporadic human infections and outbreaks caused by certain avian influenza A viruses and pig influenza A viruses have been reported.
Severity of Illness
Most people generally recover from illness in a few days to less than two weeks, but some people develop complications (such as pneumonia) and may die from influenza. The highest rates of influenza infection occur among children; however, the risks for serious health problems, hospitalizations, and deaths from influenza are typically greatest among people 65 years of age or older, children aged <5 years especially those aged <2 years, pregnant women, and people of any age who have medical conditions that place them at increased risk for complications from influenza.
In people with chronic medical conditions such as heart or lung disease, influenza can lead to pneumonia and other life-threatening illnesses. Persons 65 years of age and older account for approximately 90% of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza. Young children with influenza can develop high fevers, and a small percentage of children hospitalized with influenza can have febrile seizures. Deaths from influenza are uncommon among children, but do occur. Influenza has also been associated with neurological problems, Reye’s syndrome, muscle inflammation, and heart inflammation.
Treatment & Prevention
Most people who develop influenza illness will recover on their own by getting rest and will not need medication. Antiviral medications can shorten the duration and severity of illness if given within the first 48 hours of the illness. These medications are usually prescribed to persons who have a severe illness or to those who are at higher risk for developing serious illness or complications due to influenza.
The best way to prevent influenza is to get an influenza vaccine each year as soon as the vaccine is available to the public. Vaccination is associated with reductions in influenza-related respiratory illness and physician visits among all age groups, hospitalizations, and deaths among persons at high risk, otitis media (ear infection) among children, and work absenteeism among adults.
Other forms of prevention include:
- Hand washing and using alcohol-based hand sanitizers,
- Covering your coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue or your arm or sleeve,
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth,
- Avoiding close contact with persons who are ill,
- Staying home when you are ill, and
- Taking antiviral medications if prescribed by your doctor.
o In certain situations (e.g., influenza outbreaks in settings like nursing homes), antiviral medications may be prescribed to high-risk individuals to prevent them from developing influenza illness after exposure to infected individuals.