More flu-like illnesses reported; officials urge people to get flu shot

HOUSTON - State health officials warn that more people are getting sick this season and the time to get vaccinated is now.

Health officials say the numbers of flu-related deaths haven't changed since last week. But with more flu virus-like illnesses being reported, this is the time to take action.

Several deaths from the H1N1 flu virus have been confirmed in Houston and in Montgomery County. State health officials warn that more people are getting sick this season and the flu-like symptoms continue to spread, forcing people to miss work and rush to the emergency room.

"We're always going to see flu deaths this time of year. This is a little bit of a spike for us this year; maybe a little earlier, but not at all unusual," said Kathy Barton with Houston's Department of Health and Human Services.

She recommends you schedule a flu shot as soon as possible if you haven't had one already. Chances are this holiday season you are spending more time around big crowds, family and friends. And that's when the virus can spread if you don't practice good social hygiene.

"You want to wash hands throughout the day, cover your cough, avoid sick people, and if you are sick, stay home," Barton said.

The flu shot is strongly recommended for those with pre-exiting health conditions, children, senior citizens and women who are pregnant.

There is no shortage of the flu vaccine in the Houston area or throughout Texas. You should try to schedule your shot as soon as possible.

Local health officials say they are keeping tabs on the number of flu-reported deaths and to see if the victims could be linked in any way. They aren't expecting new information until after Christmas.

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