By Robbie Owens

DALLAS (CBS11) – Dallas County Health officials late afternoon reported its sixth flu related death this season– even as doctors warn that the worst is likely yet to come.

“In the week that ended just prior to Christmas for instance, there were more than 500 people hospitalized in Dallas county for the flu,” says Leslie Cler, M.D., Chief Medical Officer at Methodist Dallas Medical Center. “Those numbers have been increasing, it may be that we will see them rising for another month or more before they peak.”

According to DCHHS, the sixth patient was a 60-year-old resident of Dallas who died after complications from the seasonal flu. For medical confidentiality and personal privacy reasons, DCHHS does not provide identifying information. However, medical experts warn that individuals with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, young children and infants are more vulnerable to flu illness and are encouraged to take special precautions.

Dallas County’s next flu report is expected by week’s end. But, some hospitals are already confirming a steady increase in positive flu cases.

According to a hospital spokesperson, Baylor Irving, for example, saw their number of positive flu tests double from the beginning until the end of December.

Doctors still recommend getting the flu vaccine, although it is expected to be less effectiveness than in prior years because the virus mutated. Dallas County health officials are also encouraging good health hygiene: wash hands frequently, cover your mouth when you cough with a tissue or coughing into your sleeve, avoid contact with people who are coughing or appear ill, stay home if you are sick and insist that family members do the same.

Methodist’s Dr. Cler also adds that it’s important to see a doctor as soon as symptoms appear because treatment is most effective when it is started early: whether that care is provided by a patient’s primary care physician or at an urgent care clinic. However, he warns that some patients may need more immediate care.

“If you are elderly, frail, having particular level of struggle with your illness or have an impaired immune system for instance, in those situations it would be better to come to the hospital.”