DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s not too early to start talking about the flu. In fact, it could be too late for some. Many have already gotten the flu and it’s only September.
“Every couple of days we see a child with the flu,” says Preeti Sharma, a pediatric pulmonologist at Children’s Health and assistant professor at UT Southwestern. “I’m starting to get worried about it.”
Dr. Sharma says it’s too soon to say if the virus’ early arrival will mean a longer season that will see more people get sick, but it is a reason, she says to start thinking prevention.
“Get that shot,” says Dr. Sharma. “I encourage all my patients to get their flu vaccination. I vaccinate my own kids. I harass the rest of my family to get vaccinations,” adding that the vaccine is the best avenue to avoid flu complications.
Margaret Blythe of Dallas needed no convincing.
“It’s horrible for me,” says Blythe. “When I get sick, it stinks.”
She was one of the first to take advantage of free flu shots at a Dallas County Health Department mobile clinic at the Pleasant Grove library on Thursday. The department is rolling out the mobile clinics earlier this year in an aggressive effort to vaccinate as many as possible as soon as possible.
“You can say aggressive,” says Ganesh Shivaramaiyer, the county’s interim health director. “You can also say proactive.”
Shivaramaiyer got his own flu shot while explaining their concerns about the community delaying vaccinations.
“Last year, we saw the uptick in flu cases after Thanksgiving, and by then it was too late because the virus was already spreading, it had started manifesting itself in the community,” says Shivaramaiyer.
Children and the elderly are most vulnerable, but, “Even healthy people can have problems with the flu,” says Dr. Sharma, adding that even healthy people die. “One-hundred and 80 pediatric patients died of the flu last year, most of them were not vaccinated.”
Dr. Sharma also reminds the public that babies younger than 6 months old can’t get the flu vaccine.
“Even if you’re a healthy young adult and not a high risk population, if you come into contact with your grandparents, your elderly parents, you should protect them, too.”
Flu vaccines are always offered at Dallas County Health Department headquarters and half a dozen community clinics. The next mobile clinic for adults is scheduled for Saturday, September 29 at the Dallas Multipurpose Center at 2828 Fish Trap Rd. in West Dallas from 10:00 a.m. until noon.
“Never too early to be worried,” adds Blythe, “You don’t want to end up in the hospital.”
This reporter decided not to mess around and got a flu shot Thursday, too!