DALLAS — Dallas County raised the number of flu related deaths to 26 on Friday while Tarrant County confirmed its second death.
Even though Dallas County has reported more than 10 times as many flu deaths as Tarrant County, health officials say in reality, Tarrant has probably had several deaths that haven't been counted.
"The same virus that's occurring in Dallas County and the rest of Texas is occurring in Tarrant County," said Dr. Russell Jones, chief epidemiologist for the Tarrant County Health Department.
Here's the difference: The Dallas County Health Department aggressively seeks flu death numbers from hospitals and the medical examiner, even though the state does not require adult flu-related deaths to be reported. Child flu deaths must be reported.
"This has helped us plan for how much flu vaccine to order," said Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services.
He says collecting and reporting death numbers has the added benefit of encouraging people to get flu shots.
“We had lines going out the door today," Thompson said.
In Tarrant County, a spokesman for Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth says it reports flu cases regularly.
John Peter Smith Hospital and the medical examiner's office both say they voluntarily reports flu deaths, but only after lab tests confirm the strain. Those tests can take weeks, so numbers will lag behind.
"A lot of people are concerned and rightfully so," Jones said. "Flu kills."
Jones said Tarrant County is ramping up surveys of ICUs to get a clearer picture of severe flu cases.