DALLAS — The last two North Texas flu seasons have been notable because they were almost non-existent.
With COVID protocols like masks and distancing in place, North Texas mirrored much of America.
Now that masks are mostly off, risk is up. And the flu virus has already started to rear its head.
“We are seeing some scattered flu cases,” said Parkland’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joseph Chang.
None of the cases have been serious enough to warrant hospital admission, Chang said.
Some CareNow facilities have also seen early cases of flu, according to Medical City Healthcare.
Chang is expecting this flu season to be more in line with what was considered typical before COVID.
Public health officials watch the southern hemisphere - which experiences winter while we are in summer - for indications.
“Australia this year statistically had its worst flu season since before covid and we are expecting us to reflect that,” Chang said.
The Texas Department of State Health Services is seeing flu cases trending up.
The final week of September 2022, 3.56% of flu tests done in Texas hospital labs were coming back positive. The previous week, the positivity rate was 2.73%. Three regions of the state also reported spikes in cases the final week of September.
That same timeframe in 2020 produced very different numbers with a 0.58% positivity rate among hospital lab tests. No regions reported an increase in cases.
“It’s really important to realize that as folks get out of the practice of wearing masks and staying away from each other, we are going to see transmissible diseases go back up. And flu is number one in the wintertime,” Chang said.
Dr. Mo Rezaie of Fort Worth Primary Care said she hasn’t seen flu in any of her patients yet, but she knows hospitals are now testing for it.
She and Chang both preach the value of a flu vaccine this season.
“Now is actually the perfect time -- before the end of October. But really you can’t be too late with the flu vaccine. So even if it’s November, December, or even early January, getting it is better than not getting it. It’s not 100% protective, but it’s better than nothing. It really is.”
Flu shots and COVID boosters are now available at any Dallas County immunization clinic.
“We’re doubling down efforts to bring the vaccine to the community,” said Christian Grisales of the Dallas County Health Department.
Grisales said the county’s pop-up clinics can be found by calling 214-819-2000.