7 new flu deaths reported in Dallas County

The Dallas County health department says seven more people have died because of the flu. That brings the total for this flu season to 18.

Six of the patients were from Dallas, and the seventh was from Garland. Their ages ranged from 47 to 88. All had high-risk health conditions and died from complications from the flu.

Health officials are, once again, reminding people to practice good hygiene and to look out for people most at risk like older adults, pregnant women, young children and infants.

“There is no reason to not get the flu shot,” urged Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.

"Staying home when you are sick and practicing good health habits like covering your cough and washing your hands helps stop the spread of germs and prevents respiratory illnesses like the flu," said Ganesh Shivamaiyer, the Dallas County Health and Human Services interim director. "If you have a high-risk condition, remember to stay away from individuals who have flu-like symptoms."

Tarrant County health officials say John Peter Smith Hospital has seen a significant rise in emergency room visits due to the flu, but have not reported any since deaths since its only required to do so when children are involved.

“What's required as far as flu reporting is pediatric deaths statewide,” explained Russell Jones with the Tarrant County Health Department. “Everything else is pretty much voluntary.”

The flu is also a big concern for school districts as students return from winter break. Students in Dallas and Fort Worth returned on Tuesday.

Dallas ISD Health Services Director Jennifer Finley has sent notes to parents, reminding students to get good sleep, stay hydrated, eat well, wash hands and cover coughs.

Perhaps most importantly health officials throughout North Texas urge flu sufferers to stay home and prevent the potentially deadly virus from spreading.

"The main thing is to keep them home if they're running a fever,” Finley said.

"There's a robust surveillance network across all 254 counties,” explained Dr. Christopher Perkins. “Indications show there is widespread flew across the state of Texas."