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Thursday, January 16, 2014 - 9:00pm
El Paso, TX (KDBC) — The flu has claimed the life of a former UTEP student and educators are now urging students to take action. In mid-January, four people in El Paso have died from the flu.
The department of health says they've seen about 600 fewer cases this year compared to last flu season but this year's virus is extremely aggressive -- and is affecting young, otherwise healthy people.
Rene Alex Delgado was the picture of health, young and active, his good habits rubbed off, "Really helped me keep in shape,” Antonio Martinez, Delgado’s best friend told us.
But on January 14, the flu claimed the 22--year-old former UTEP student’s life alarming neighbors because they believed he was too healthy to fall victim to the flu. "It's very much a shock. Don't know what to think as I heard the news.”
The virus has already claimed four lives in El Paso. The three other victims were middle-aged and had underlying medical issues. But this latest death has shaken up the community up the community. His friends said, days before his death, they were all together playing ping pong. "He's acting fine. He wasn't coughing, shaking. Didn't say a sore throat or anything "
But many remember his mother urging him to get a flu shot.
"The mom said hey we need to get a flu shot because he would go outside and play ping pong and he wouldn't wear shoes or a jacket. He just kept on playing, he just kept on playing like that,” Maria Teresa Santos, Delgado’s neighbor explained in Spanish.
The El Paso Department of Public Health has told us looks can be deceiving. "Being healthy or apparently healthy, doesn't mean that you have a good immune system,” Fernando Gonzalez, Lead Epidemiologist with the Dept. of Public Health told us Wednesday.
They say your best tools against the flu are to wash your hands often, cover your dough, stay home if you're sick, call a doctor if you have a fever of 100 degrees or more, and get the flu shot. Even though getting one isn't a complete guarantee against the virus.
Delgado's death is shocking to those knew him -- but a stark reminder of what the flu can do. We asked Martinez how he wants the community to remember his friend, “As a great guy who would help you out with anything, really."
The Department of Public Health said anyone six months or older should get a flu shot and they're offering the vaccine for $25 to $35.