The flu virus is starting to take its toll here in the panhandle. We spoke with local doctors to find out where we stand compared to the rest of the country.
Influenza has started to peak across the country. Area doctors say flu and flu-like cases are at a high in the panhandle, but we have yet to reach our peak.
Two deaths have been linked to the influenza virus in the U.S. this year. But, the panhandle has yet to see the worst of it.
"The peak of the flu season is usually in early February. Now this year, that disease is occurring earlier than what it usually is. As a matter of fact, right now as of this week we are probably on that upswing where we really see a big increase in the number of flu cases," Todd Bell, M.D. Texas Tech University School of Medicine says.
The Department of Public Health says they have. The past week has seen a high for flu and flu-like cases this year.
"We're talking one case here and there the last several weeks. And then just this week we did have 17 cases of the influenza A reported and a couple of cases of influenza B. So, this week really has shown an up-tick," Roger Smalligan, M.D. Medical Director for the Department of Public Health says.
Dr. Smalligan says the flu can be dangerous. Between 30 and 40 thousand people in U.S. die every year from flu complications.
"And if you do the math and bring it down to our population size, that means 24 to 30 people in Amarillo Texas could die of flu related illness this year, this winter, and it's preventable. You know this is a vaccine preventable disease," Smalligan says.
Unlike years past where there has been a shortage in flu vaccines, there are plenty available. Dr. Bell says this year's strain of flu is included in the vaccine offered.
Dr. Bell says this month probably won't be the only time we get hit hard with the flu. He predicts another peak once kids are back in school after winter break.