Reports of flu high in Valley

BROWNSVILLE —Brownsville and surrounding cities are ranked third in the nation for flu activity according to Walgreens’ most recent flu index report, covering the week of Feb. 26.

That’s an improvement for the DMA encompassing Brownsville, Harlingen, Weslaco and McAllen, which took first place in terms of flu activity in Walgreens’ previous flu index report from the week of Feb. 19. DMA stands for “direct marketing area” and indicates areas where the drug store chain has at least 10 locations.

The Rio Grande Valley is among the nation’s top flu hotspots according to the index, which Walgreens launched in November 2014. The ratings are based on the average number of prescriptions for antiviral medications, such as Tamiflu, that Walgreens tracks in its DMAs nationwide.

Other areas of high flu activity according to the report are the Tyler-Longview DMA, ranked second in the latest index, and Greensboro-High Point-Winston Salem in North Carolina, ranked first. Texas is the fourth-highest state in flu activity, with the DMAs of El Paso and Corpus Christi coming in seventh and eighth, respectively.

According to nearly 35 years of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu season typically starts in early October and peaks around the middle of February, though the CDC’s most recent report shows elevated flu activity continuing through the week ending Feb. 25.

The Texas Department of Health and Human Services, in a summary of a March 3 report, said that flu activity across the state appears to have decreased slightly during the past two weeks, though it’s too soon to know whether it has peaked for the season.

“Compared to the previous week, the percentage of specimens testing positive for influenza reported by hospital laboratories and patient visits due to influenza-like illness … slightly decreased, while the percentage of specimens testing positive for influenza reported by public health laboratories increased,” read the report.