Healthcare systems concerned by pediatric ER visits & alarming positivity rate
AUSTIN, Texas – Austin Public Health (APH) recommends vaccination and other preventive measures as the flu positivity rate recently tripled. Emergency departments have been inundated with children suffering from symptoms of flu-like illnesses. APH and local healthcare entities including Ascension Seton and St. David's HealthCare issued the following joint statement:
"Dell Children's Medical Center, part of Ascension Seton, and St. David’s Children's Hospital are currently experiencing a greater number of patients in pediatric emergency departments. We are seeing a spike in respiratory illnesses among children, not just in Central Texas, but nationwide. Many children experiencing symptoms consistent with upper respiratory illness can receive care at a doctor’s office or urgent care clinic.
Having the capacity to safely care for all patients is essential to providing ongoing healthcare services to our community, and we are asking for the community’s help.
It is important that we reserve our emergency departments for patients with emergent medical conditions. We are encouraging parents to access the most appropriate site of care for their child’s medical needs. If a child has flu-like symptoms, parents should call their doctor or take their child to an urgent care clinic. If they are having trouble breathing or have some other type of related emergent condition, they should go to an emergency department."
The data may fluctuate due to numerous data feeds, but as of this publication, Travis County’s flu positivity rate was almost 33% the week ending Oct. 8. The previous week it was 11%. Traditionally it’s less than 1% this time of year.
“It's critical that everyone get a flu shot if they haven’t done so already,” said Dr. Desmar Walkes, Austin-Travis County Health Authority. “The numbers we’re seeing are really concerning. Flu shots can help prevent serious illness and protect friends and family who are at high risk for poor outcomes.”
Everyone 6 months and older is eligible for flu and COVID-19 vaccines, and they can be given at the same time. APH offers both at Shots for Tots/Big Shots and most pop-up clinics. The Mobile Vaccination Program (MVP) worked with community partners to host more than two dozen clinics last month to reach historically underserved communities. They administered 236 flu shots earlier this month at Boo the Flu and COVID, Too, and they’ll be set up at Wheless Lane Church of Christ for a Community Fun Day Saturday, Oct. 22, from 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. Flu A Palooza is next weekend, Oct. 29, from 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. at Del Valle High School.
Flu shots are also available at local doctors’ offices and pharmacies. Visit Vaccines.gov (Vacunas.gov in Spanish) to find flu and COVID-19 vaccine providers near you.
About Austin Public Health
Austin Public Health is the health department for the City of Austin and Travis County. Austin Public Health works to prevent disease, promote health and protect the well-being of all by monitoring and preventing infectious diseases and environmental threats and educating about the benefits of preventative behaviors to avoid chronic diseases and improve health outcomes.