NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – At least 400 people lined up, some even before sunrise, at the Dallas County Health Department to get a flu shot.
Mother Gina Chacon and her two children were in the group. They went to get vaccinated before they went to school. “When I recently started seeing the news and started seeing people getting sick and dying, that’s when I thought that’s when we need to do something about this,” Chacon said.
Dallas County and other North Texas health departments are overrun with people — who are only now getting vaccinated for fear they’ll get the flu. The rush comes even though health officials have urged people to get their shot since last September.
Zachary Thompson, Director of Dallas County Health and Human Services said, “Clearly, I think people underestimate the danger and severity of the flu, and it’s impact, and how deadly it is.”
On Friday, CBS 11 News learned 10 more people in North Texas have died from the flu. One person died in Denton County, raising the number of deaths there to three.
The other nine additional deaths were in Dallas County, bringing the total number of fatalities to 26 this season.
Tarrant County may have a second flu death, but that still has to be confirmed.
The number of people being hospitalized has jumped as well. In Dallas County last week, more than 175 people were being treated in the hospital for the virus.
JPS Hospital in Fort Worth says flu patients there seem sicker and are staying longer than in years past.
The primary flu bug this year is H1N1, which hit hard in 2009.
Dr. Jeffrey Kahn is a pediatric infectious disease specialist at UT Southwestern and Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. “What’s surprising is that since the virus has stuck around for four years, and has circulated around the world for four years, one would imagine there would have been a lot of immunity developed in the population, the virus would either change or fade away. That we have not seen.” Dr. Kahn says no one knows for sure why this is.
One factor Dr. Khan has found to be different is that this year more seemingly healthy children and young adults have been diagnosed with severe flu, instead of seniors who are typically more susceptible. “It could be that older people who’ve been around more, perhaps because they’ve been immunized more certainly because they’ve ben exposed and infected more have developed immunity, where younger people have not.”
Like other health workers across North Texas Dr. Khan is urging healthy people to get vaccinated.
Officials say the problem is many people still mistakenly believe the flu shot will give them the flu, which isn’t true. While people who get vaccinated may still be diagnosed with the flu, doctors say it will be a less severe case.
On Saturday, the Collin County Medical Reserve Corps will be giving free flu shots at 1890 Avenue K in Plano between noon and 4 p.m.
The Denton County Health Department has free flu shots at its two locations as well.
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