It wasn’t a typical Christmas holiday for Kate Keenan and her family.
Rather than seeing relatives or being out and about, they were stuck at home getting over the flu.
The 30-year-old teacher, who is pregnant, said her family got the illness, with the exception of her 4-year-old son, who had received a flu shot.
“We had to disinfect everything…,” she said. “We did the best we could at home.”
After realizing she had the flu, Mrs. Keenan said she immediately received a flu shot and was able to quickly recover. However, she said her husband and 8-year-old daughter have had a harder time.
Her daughter, who has been sick about a week, had to be quarantined in her room for two days, she said, while her husband still feels “tired and achy.”
Mrs. Keenan and her family are not the only Texans who have been touched by the flu this year.
During one week in December, a total of 2,248 visits for influenza-like illness were reported by 106 providers in Texas, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services website. That’s out of more than 24,300 total patients. And in Gregg County, there have been two H1N1 fatalities this year, said Stephanie Taylor, public information officer with the Northeast Texas Public Health District.
Mrs. Taylor said the flu season varies from year to year, and the health district is seeing a lot of flu cases, specifically the H1N1 strain.
“This is a little bit stronger of flu season, so we’re encouraging people to get the flu vaccine,” she said.
She said those 6 months of age and older should get the vaccine, and young children, those who are pregnant, those with chronic health conditions and seniors 65 years of age and older are among the people at high risk of serious flu complications.
Mrs. Taylor said the flu shot is the best protection against the illness.
People can still get the flu if they’ve had a flu shot, she said, but the symptoms, which can include fever, aching or coughing, will be “less and more manageable.”
She said the health district also is encouraging people to use personal protection by doing things like covering a cough, staying home when they’re sick, washing hands with soap and warm water and using hand sanitizer when warm water and soap are not available.
Aside from the flu, one of the biggest health issues statewide is pertussis, or whooping cough, Mrs. Taylor said. This year, there have been four child deaths in Texas due to pertussis, all of which involved children 2 months old or younger, Mrs. Taylor said via email.
Mrs. Taylor said via email that as of Dec. 16, there were 3,482 cases of pertussis in Texas — the most of any year since 1959.
She said whooping cough can result in mortality, particularly in infants.
Additionally, she said, adults can pass along pertussis to children, and it is equally important that adults ensure that they’re vaccinated.
“That’s where we’re seeing a real problem. Adults don’t have the immunizations they need,” Mrs. Taylor said.
Pertussis and flu vaccinations are available at the health district, 815 N. Broadway Ave. Mrs. Taylor said residents may also consult a physician.
The health district is open from 8 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. It is open from 8 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays.
Mrs. Taylor said residents do not need to make an appointment.
For more information on the vaccines, visit the Northeast Texas Public Health District website, www.healthyeasttx.org or call 903-510-5604.