By Valerie Reddell
Tyler County finds itself in the middle of the area of the U.S. hardest hit by the flu epidemic, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The Tyler County Hospital has had 76 positive flu tests since Dec. 1, according to CEO Dr. Sandra Wright.
"We have had 64 positives for Flu A and 12 for Flu B just in the hospital — that's not counting the clinic," Wright said Jan. 2.
"That's a lot for us, and our inpatient volume is running higher," Wright said.
In a report issued Dec. 29, the Texas Department of State Health Services said that the numbers of positive tests reported from hospitals and clinics are continuing to climb.
Just over 84 percent of the tests for flu are coming back positive.
Texas is the hardest hit state in the U.S., and all but two of the top 10 regional markets for the number of flu cases are in Texas. The other two are in Arkansas. The Tyler-Longview area is No. 1.
Nationally, nine deaths from flu and related illnesses have been reported. Five of those were apparently in Dallas County.
"It's just one of those years where the CDC is seeing that this strain of flu is only somewhat covered by the vaccine that was given this year," said Jennifer Radtke, manager for infection prevention at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville. "They're seeing that it's anywhere from 10p percent to 33 percent effective, so any time there's a mismatch between the vaccine and the circulating strain of the flu, you're going to see more cases."
Texas is currently home to the largest flu outbreaks in the country, according to data collected by Walgreens.
Not only is it the state with the most "flu activity," but 8 of the top 10 regional markets with the highest number of flu cases are in Texas (the other two are in Arkansas). At the moment, the San Antonio area ranks ninth in the country. The Tyler and Longeview region ranks number one.
Texas' cases are at odds with most of the country. According to Walgreens' data, the majority of states have a relatively low number of flu cases — just one look at this map makes this painfully obvious.
This rate isn't normal for Texas. According to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services, state hospital labs reported 59 positive flu tests for the week of Dec. 18-26 in 2016. For the same week this year (Dec. 17-23), that number grew to a whopping 777 — that's a 1,216 percent increase.
If this trend continues, Texas is expected to see the worst flu season in recent history. According to public health experts, this could be due to the certain mutated strain of influenza spreading across the country that's made this year's flu vaccine being about 10 percent effective.
The number of flu cases typically peaks in February.