GALVESTON

The number of flu cases reported in Galveston County is up this year and at a rate that has county health officials urging people to get their seasonal shots.

Since September, 268 lab-confirmed cases of the flu have been reported to the health district. Just 32 cases of the flu were reported to the district in the same time period last year.

The flu season typically begins in October, but health district officials said they started to receive reports of flu cases in September this year.

Health care providers are not required to report flu cases to the health district. The district’s numbers come from hospitals such as those at the University of Texas Medical Branch and its own clinics. The number of cases in the county is likely higher than has been confirmed by the district.

Still, the number of flu cases already reported this year is drawing some concern, and the county’s top health official said he was worried the increase is a sign that people are ignoring warnings to get vaccinated.

“We’re becoming concerned people are not taking the flu threat as seriously as they should,” said. Dr. Philip Keiser, Galveston County Local Health Authority.

There is no way to predict how severe a flu season will be, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Flu viruses are constantly changing, and new strains of the virus can appear every year.

The CDC reported there was widespread flu activity in Louisiana and Oklahoma in its most recent update of virus activity in the United States. Nationally, flu activity is increasing.

The best way to avoid, and help prevent, the spread of the flu, is to get vaccinated, Keiser said. Newborns younger than 6 months, people age 65 and older, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions all are at higher risk of serious health complications or death if they contract the flu.

Flu shots are available in many places, including local pharmacies. The health district also operates its own immunization clinic.

“No matter if you get it at one of our clinics, your private physician or a pharmacy, you just need to make sure you actually go and do it,” Keiser said.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

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