Laredo, Texas, schools confirm influenza B outbreak

The Texas State Department of Health Services recently confirmed that two Laredo-area school districts are reporting influenza cases at six times the levels reported in 2011.

The TSDHS's acknowledgement sharply contrasts a recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report of low flu activity across the United States. The CDC announced that it will conduct confirmation testing initiated by its new surveillance system, according to

TSDHS announced that the Laredo outbreak has been identified as the influenza B virus, not the swine flu variety that was reported sporadically throughout the United States over the summer. The department said that a newly established instant reporting system developed by the Austin-based Argus 1 Systems triggered the first round of sample testing.

"This surprising early influenza outbreak - at levels usually seen only in the winter months - has been present almost from the onset in late August of the fall 2012 semester for both the Laredo Independent and United Independent school districts," Dr. Vincent Friedewald, the chief medical officer for Argus 1 Systems, said, reports.

The Laredo health department and the LISD installed the system in 2009-2010 in an attempt to head off a potential H1N1 influenza outbreak among students, teachers and staff.

"Detailed analysis of the cases in the outbreak is underway," Friedewald said, reports. "We have found in the surveillance reports that all schools, kindergarten to 12th grade (K-12), are involved. Gastrointestinal complaints, especially nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are much more common in this outbreak compared to past years, although the usual flu symptoms of fever, cough and sore throat still dominate."

Laredo health and school officials have responded by putting out a series of alerts to residents. Letters from area schools to households are urging parents to ensure children are vaccinated immediately and undertake proper hygiene procedure.