In more than one week the number of confirmed flu cases across North Texas has jumped from 700 prior to New Year’s to more than 1,800 reported Monday, January 6. There have been 19 confirmed flu-related deaths. The reason for the rise is people returning to work and kids heading back to school. There is no shortage of vaccine and health officials in Dallas, Denton, Collin and Tarrant Counties are urging people to get the vaccine not only for themselves, but also their children. This year’s particularly severe and deadly strain has been identified as H1N1, previously referred to as swine flu. The commonly available vaccine does include the H1N1 strain, but if you or your family have not received this year’s immunization it’s not too late. While the vaccine does take up to two weeks to build immunity in the body, it can never be too late. With this particular strain of flu, the young seem to be hit the hardest, so it’s especially important to make sure your children are vaccinated. The Travel Doctor, acute care centers, pharmacies, grocery stores and county health departments all have the vaccine available. Dr. Jill Strachan-Batson with Parkland Hospital spoke to local news reporters this past Monday and says people with the flu are contagious for a longer period of time than they realize. “The flu is something that is spread by close contact by respiratory droplets, so with kids, congregating in areas and hugging and shaking hands and talking to one another, there is the opportunity for them to spread this germ,” she said. Local hospitals, county health authorities and local medical practices are detailing rising flu cases, and also emphasizing the severity of this year’s flu season. Dallas County health authorities report more than one hundred people have been admitted to hospitals as a result of the this virus – and, over the past two weeks, 60 people were treated in intensive care units, all with the H1N1 virus. At least 20 flu deaths have been reported across North Texas. Denton County health department reported their first two flu-associated deaths on Monday, one of them a young girl from Carrollton, who attended a Lewisville charter school. Dallas County officials confirm 17 flu related deaths and they say the virus is hitting people of all ages hard. “Young adults, healthy adults are being impacted tremendously with the illness. The illness has really hit them hard. We’re talking healthy adults,” said Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zachary Thompson. Denton County is offering free flu shots Tuesday at clinics in Denton and Lewisville. Dallas County Health and Human Services is offering free flu shots to residents who qualify. Tarrant County’s Health Department has the vaccine available at $20 a shot

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