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Flu hits Borderland hard this year

By: Melissa Gundersen
EL PASO, Texas -- The flu is a potentially deadly virus that doctors said is hitting the Borderland especially hard this year.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, Texas is one of two states in the country experiencing a high level of flu activity. The state's health department said El Paso is an area of concern.

"It's hitting a lot of our children 8 and under and it's hitting a lot of our elders," said Michael Jacobs, a nurse practitioner at Summit Urgent Care in east El Paso.

Jacobs said a lot of people have been coming into Summit Urgent Care and testing positive for flu. After the first visit, though, Jacobs said a lot of those patients are returning with more problems.

"We're seeing a lot more ear infections, sinus infections and pneumonias this year from the flu than we did last year," said Jacobs.

Pneumonia is something the elder community needs to watch out for.

Jacobs attributes the Borderland's bad flu season to a few things, including a large elder population and having a lot of international visitors. He said the main reason, though, is that we do have a little bit lower influenza vaccination rates."

It's not that flu shots aren't available. He said the problem is fewer than half of people in El Paso are getting them. The national average is between 60 and 80 percent.

"(People aren't getting the shot because) the falsity that they say they get sick from the shot. In reality, they cant. It's a dead vaccine, there's nothing (live) in it and it gives them immunity about two weeks after the shot," said Jacobs.

Medical professionals recommend that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot.

"We also encourage pregnant women (to get the shot). They're not exempt from getting the flu and the complications from it," said Jacobs.

The shot typically protects people against three strains of the flu virus, but this year the CDC said there are shots available that will protect people against a fourth strain, reducing chances of getting sick.