This year’s flu season is now as bad as the swine flu epidemic nine years ago, and it surpasses every winter flu season since 2003.
Dallas County is now reporting 62 flu-related deaths. The latest patients were 90 and 98 years old from Dallas. They both had high-risk health conditions.
The deaths of 58-year-old Angie Barwise from Fort Worth and 38-year-old Weatherford teacher Heather Holland highlight the dangers of secondary infections. The families of both women say they were otherwise healthy when they contracted the flu.
Barwise's husband says she was diagnosed with Type A influenza, strep and bronchitis. Holland's family says she came down Type B influenza and later pneumonia.
Doctors say the flu makes the body vulnerable to other infections that can rapidly become life-threatening even if the patient seems to be recovering.
“If you are getting better and you suddenly worsen, that is a red flag,” warned Dr. Suzanne Whitworth with Cook Children’s Hospital.
Holland died six days after her first symptoms. Her family says blood tests found evidence of sepsis.
"Pneumonia or they can go in and stream infections we call sepsis, and those are terrible. And they can be fatal even in perfectly healthy people,” Whitworth said. “If you're worried that there is a secondary bacterial infection, you need to see your doctor."
Doctors say the predominant strain of flu going around right now is H3-N2.
"When it's that strain. the disease is worse and generally more severe,” Whitworth said.
But doctors also point out it is not too late to get a flu shot to guard against one of the worst flu seasons in several years.
“So important to get your flu shot, even now,” Whitworth said. “The only way you can guarantee you're not going to get a secondary infection on of the flu is if you don't get it in the first place."
A new government report shows 1 of every 13 visits to the doctor last week were for fever, cough and other symptoms of the flu. This season started early and has been driven by a type of flu that tends to put more people in the hospital and cause more deaths.