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Thursday, January 9, 2014 - 8:45pm
El Paso, TX (KDBC) — The flu season is worsening, and this year experts in our area said they are seeing the most aggressive strain of H1N1, or swine flu, that they have seen since 2009.
The Centers for Disease Control said that in addition to the elderly and sick who are usually at risk, the flu is also striking young to middle-aged, healthy adults.
The first flu-related death in El Paso this year was reported on January 8. A middle-aged man with no other underlying health conditions died of H1N1.
Although the national trend shows that age group is being most impacted by the flu this year, Armando Saldivar, spokesperson for the El Paso Department of Public Health, said they are still working to break down the numbers by age group.
"We used to think that only the elderly or the young kids, little babies were vulnerable or at risk, and we're seeing now reports of young adults and middle aged adults who are increasingly being affected by the H1N1 strain," said Daniel Acosta, Director of Immunize El Paso.
He works at the Tillman Health Center in Downtown El Paso and said he doesn't see very many young or middle-aged adults going in to get their flu shot.
"Individuals in that age group tend to think you know what, 'I'm healthy, I don't need the shot. I can get sick and recover quickly,'" Acosta said.
Dr. German Rosas-Acosta, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Texas El Paso has been researching the flu virus at UTEP since 2007 under a grant from the National Institute of Health.
Although there is a trend impacting middle-aged adults, he said everyone is at risk.
"Everybody can suffer major complications due to influenza. This is not something that is exclusive of certain high risk groups," he said.
Dr. Rosas-Acosta said the flu virus changes every year, and this year he is seeing a very aggressive form of H1N1.
"The make up of the virus looks very similar to what we had during the 2009 pandemic," Rosas-Acosta said.
Since the flu virus changes every year, Rosas-Acosta said the flu vaccine changes every year as well, and said this year there is a very good match between the vaccine and the strains of the flu virus health officials have seen.
"There is a very good match in the vaccine strain and the strain that has been circulated in the population, therefore the vaccine is going to be very effective," he said.
Rosas-Acosta said the peak flu season tends to be late January, into early February, so for those who have not gotten a flu shot yet, there is still time to be protected.
Immunize El Paso has two clinic locations:
Tillman Health Center
222 S. Campbell (basement floor)
Monday - Friday, 9am - 12pm / 2pm - 5pm
1580 George Dieter, Ste 102
Monday - Friday, 9am - 12pm, 2pm / 5pm
Cost of flu vaccine:
$10 - children 18 & under
$25 - adults
Most insurance accepted, including Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP
*Uninsured children may be eligible for free vaccine