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State data: Flu remains widespread in Texas

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 12, 2013 at 5:56 pm •  Published: January 12, 2013

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Catholic churches in 29 West Texas counties have been told to stop using shared communion cups and to bow instead of shaking hands when offering the sign of peace.

Teachers in some East Texas schools are cleaning desks, water fountains and doorknobs and making sure students wash their hands often.

The flu remains widespread in Texas, and people are still taking precautions and rushing to get the flu shot. The flu season usually starts in October and peaks in December through February, although it started a bit earlier than usual, in late September.

It's unclear when the flu season will end. Based on what could be the peak, "then we're about halfway there, but the flu is unpredictable," Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, director of infectious diseases at Children's Medical Center in Dallas, said Saturday.

While some hospitals and clinics in Fort Worth and Austin have reported a decrease in patients with flu-like symptoms in recent days, emergency rooms in Dallas, El Paso and elsewhere remain crowded with flu patients. Kahn said his children's hospital remains extremely busy and that this flu season has been more severe than in past years.

The number of positive flu tests was nearly 1,600 the last week of December but less than 500 the first week of January, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. The percentage of doctor visits for flu-like symptoms was nearly 12 percent the last week of December and less than 10 percent the first week of January, the most recent figures available.

But that data is likely to change as more reports are added. In the 2011-12 season, several reporting periods ended up with increased numbers, including the third week of March, initially reported as having less than 100 positive flu tests. In the following week's report, the third week of March showed nearly 300 positive flu tests.

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