Jan 10, 2024 - News

COVID, flu and allergies on the rise in North Texas

Illustration of shadow hands grabbing at a tissue box

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The germs that spread over the holidays are still making their rounds, leaving many illness-ridden North Texans to wonder, "Is it COVID, flu or allergies?"

The big picture: COVID, flu and RSV cases are on the rise statewide. And, it's peak cedar fever season — Ashe junipers' pollen releases peak in mid-January and taper off at the end of February or early March.

Yes, but: Figuring out which illness you have is difficult. Colds, flu, COVID and cedar fever share symptoms of sore throat, runny nose, itchy eyes, headaches and fatigue.

State of play: Anticipating an uptick in respiratory illnesses, public health experts urged North Texans to get their COVID boosters and flu shots before meeting up with friends and family over the holidays.

  • In mid-December, many local pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS saw long lines of people trying to get their shots.

Threat level: Sixty-two percent of Dallas County residents got the initial series of the COVID vaccine, but only 11% have a booster that became available in 2022, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data analyzed by the New York Times.

  • Data on the most recent booster isn't available.
  • Daily hospital admissions for COVID in Dallas County remain far below 2021 and 2022 levels, but were trending upward slightly in late December.

Zoom out: The CDC estimates between 10 million and 19 million Americans have had the flu so far this season, and 110,000 to 230,000 people have been hospitalized because of the illness.

  • The agency anticipates that number will only increase as the season goes on. Almost 32 million flu cases were recorded in the 2022-2023 season.
  • Flu activity in Texas remains "very high," per the CDC.

What they're saying: "We're just getting into the winter season, and the trend is still upward," Dr. Fahmi Farah, a Fort Worth cardiologist, told NBC5.

Be smart: Check the expiration date of your at-home COVID tests before using them, and order more free ones from the government if needed.

  • If you're prone to allergies, consider taking your allergy medicine daily this winter.
  • Cook Children's offers these tips for caring for a sick child.

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