Doctors warn El Paso is close to a Flu epidemic

Monica Cortez-kdbc
Monday, January 13, 2014 - 8:20pm

Emergency rooms throughout the city have been packed with patients as the virus continues to seep into the borderland.

Although the flu isn't yet classified as an epidemic, the number of people coming down with the flu is increasing.

Hospital emergency rooms often get overwhelmed with flu patients, and this year is no exception.

"Just this morning we have registered 65 patients,” said Dr. Jennifer Castaneda, Director of the Las Palmas Emergency Room. “A lot of people are getting sick sooner."

Doctor Castaneda said she has seen more people with the flu this year than last year.

Typically she sees 20 to 30 patients every morning, and this year that number has doubled.

"It’s definitely the beginning don't think it’s in the middle,” she said. “Usually the flu season starts in October and this year it actually didn't start until the end of December beginning of January."

Texas is one of the 35 states where the flu is widespread.

The flu vaccine has been in high demand, so much East Texas has experienced a shortage.

But that's not the case in El Paso
"Here in the clinic we have plenty of vaccines,” said Dr. Rogelio Castaneda. “There is no shortage and we recommend you get [the vaccine] every year."

And for some people like Brian Esquivel, getting the flu vaccine every year isn't optional.

After suffering a serious head injury, Esquivel came down with a severe case of meningitis at the age of 11.

And every year since then, he makes sure he gets vaccinated.

"His defenses are low and if he gets a sever fever; it can affect his injury,” said Esquivel’s mother, Lourdes Esquivel. “I think it is important for everyone to get vaccinated."

As the number of patients with the flu continues to increase, Jennifer said preventing the flue is easy.

"Prevention is a huge initiative,” she said. “We protect our patients by wearing masks because sometime the cough can be productive or has fluid behind it. And the air droplets can travel up to 3 feet in front of you."
And Dr. Rogelio Castaneda said one of the best ways is to cover your mouth whenever you sneeze or cough.

"We do recommend prevention and vaccine, vaccine, vaccine."

And even though we are not in a flu epidemic, Dr. Jennifer Castaneda warned we are close.

“We haven’t reached [epidemic] numbers yet but there is a good chance we will," she said.

If you're looking to get your flu shot there are several clinics that will be held in Las Cruces this month

The first one is this Friday, at St. Genevieve Catholic Church Parish Hall from 11-3pm.

Then the following week, the west Las Cruces immunization clinic will hold one offer flu shots on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8-4pm.

In Sun City immunization El Paso also offers flu shots and they are open Monday through Friday from 9am to noon and 2pm to 5pm.

They have two locations, one in downtown El Paso: Tillman Health Center, 222 South Campbell Street

And one on the eastside: Eastside Clinic 1580 George Dieter, Ste 102


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