Houston Reports First Flu Deaths

This year's flu season is one of the worst in years, and now it has turned deadly in Houston.  At least five deaths in the greater Houston area are now blamed on the flu.  The Houston Health Department confirms that two women in their 60s died from the flu in the past two months.  Montgomery County officials say a man in his 70s died earlier this week from the disease.  And Harris County officials say two other deaths are flu-related, but did not provide further details.

One of the reasons for the intense flu season this year is the particular strain of the disease that's going around, according to Dr. Daniel Jernigan, director of the Influenza Division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  "This year the cases we're seeing are due to H3N2, which is a virus that, whenever it shows up, it causes lots of disease, lots of hospitalizations, lots of cases and lots of deaths," he says.

The timing of this flu season is also different.  "At CDC we monitor influenza very closely, and what we're seeing is that this year the flu season started earlier, and it seems to be peaking right now," says Dr. Jernigan.  "So it's about a month earlier than it would normally be peaking."

Texas is among the hardest-hit states by this year's flu activity.  In Dallas County, at least 23 flu-related deaths have occurred so far this season.

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