DENTON (CBSDFW.COM) — A flu season that hit early and hard is far from over — on Friday, Denton County reported its first flu related death of the season.

Meanwhile, Dallas County health officials’ most recent flu surveillance report also confirmed that the number of flu cases continues to rise.

“The most important thing is to get the vaccine,” Kevin Bower, M.D., an emergency room physician at Baylor Scott & White Irving said. “The vaccine is not 100%, so you may catch the flu, even if you’ve had the vaccine. However, people that had the vaccine tend to have less severe symptoms and a shorter duration of those symptoms.”

His ER has been one of several in the North Texas area kept busy with patients complaining of flu symptoms. Baylor Scott & White Irving staffers said they saw their busiest month ever in December.

“The flu is a respiratory virus, so any coughing, sneezing tends to spread the virus and if you’re out in public and happen to be near somebody, there’s a very good chance that you’re going to catch the virus,” Dr. Bower said.

As the winter break wraps up, parents are also being encouraged to be mindful of symptoms so that sick kids aren’t sent back to school.

“I always remind my boys to not drink out of the water fountain, to not put their hands in their mouth ever after touching things and to use hand sanitizer all of the time,” Natalie Powell-Jordan said. “And really stay away from the children that might look like they have symptoms.”

However, doctors say hand sanitizer doesn’t always help because the flu virus travels through air.

“So if somebody is in your classroom coughing away and they don’t have a mask on, or you don’t have a mask on, you’re going to be at risk for catching the flu,” Dr. Bower said. “If your child has a fever, has a cough, body aches — keep them at home. Those are the people that spread it to everybody else and get the rest of the school sick.”