DALLAS Visitors to hospitals throughout North Texas are being told to stay away from patients if they're suffering flu-like symptoms.

'All over the hospital are people who might have issues with their immune systems,' said Dr. Matt Bush, Medical City Dallas's director of emergency services. 'So it's really important that people who have respiratory illnesses and contagious illnesses don't come to the hospital if they don't need to be a patient.'

Fort Worth's John Peter Smith Hospital is also asking parents to consider leaving children at home when visiting hospitalized patients, especially if they have symptoms of illness.

Twenty-six people are hospitalized with the flu at JPS Hospital. Seven of those are in the Intensive Care Unit. Bush says flu cases have increased sevenfold at Medical City in the last month. The vast majority of these have tested positive for the type A H1N1 strain, also known as Swine Flu.

H1N1 can be more serious than other strains on otherwise healthy people for reasons health experts are still trying to figure out. Dallas County health officials addressed the Commissioners Court during a meeting Tuesday that 54 percent of those hospitalized for influenza are men.

'A lot of the burden of disease in Dallas County is because most people did not get the vaccine,' said Dr. Christopher Perkins, health authority for the Dallas County Department of Health and Human Services.

Perkins warns the number of people who fall ill or die from influenza will rise as children return to school after the holiday and spread the virus to classmates. Seventeen people have died from influenza in Dallas County. None of those have been pediatric.

Denton County has recorded two flu deaths, one of whom was a child.


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