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Flu Season Starts In North Texas

Robbie Owens Robbie Owens
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CBS DFW (con't)

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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - ‘Panic’ is a powerful public health motivator. Remember the flu vaccine shortage? Faced with limited supplies in the fall of 2004, North Texans lined up by the hundreds– often before sunrise– to get a shot.

Flu season officially got underway this week and with vaccine supplies plentiful and access easy, where are the crowds? Where is the concern?

“They’re not coming in like we would like to see them come in,” says Zachary Thompson, Director of Dallas County Health and Human Services. “I think that is a concern. The flu kills more people in the United States, than the West Nile virus.”

While determining the exact numbers of annual flu related deaths can be a challenge– victims often suffer multiple ailments– the Centers for Disease Control estimates that some 36,000 Americans will die each year from the flu.

“I don’t want to take any chances,” says Yolanda Guerra. Guerra says she learned the hard way the flu bug really bites– so she headed to the Dallas County Health department early to get her vaccine. “It was awful. I don’t want to get sick.”

The county health department offers the adult flu vaccine for $20. But, officials say they don’t want the uninsured or anyone lacking the means to avoid getting the vaccine. Contact them, and do it now.

“By you getting the flu shot, you’re not only protect yourself, but those around you,” says Thompson.

Thompson says they are especially encouraging those with plans to travel during the holidays to get the vaccine early. It’s important, he says, to have immunity well established before possibly being exposed to the flu virus in other areas.

Jannette Swinton of Dallas is taking the advice to heart and getting her shot today “because I am one that will really get sick during the winter time.”

Swinton says she was surprised to find the waiting room at the health department nearly empty. “They’ll probably wait until they’re sick already,” predicts Swinton.

But, some savvy North Texas businesses are opting to bring private flu shot clinics on site. Pete Little, Chief Financial Officer at Irving based MJB Wood Group, says it’s simply good business.

“It’s really a win-win for the employees and the company,” says Little, “if they’re healthy, they don’t miss days at work. It works well for everyone.”

Getting a shot beats getting sick. And right now, Swinton says, you can get one without waiting.

“It’s not busy– you’ll be in and out during your lunch hour!”

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