North Texas Daily

Denton County sees more flu activity, shortage of shots

Denton County sees more flu activity, shortage of shots

Denton County sees more flu activity, shortage of shots
January 23
09:28 2014

Obed Manuel // Senior Staff Writer

For Brittni Barnett, last week was a rough one. On Jan. 12, she began coughing and feeling chills. On Jan. 13, she had a fever. On Jan. 14, she decided to make an appointment at the UNT Health and Wellness Center to find out what was wrong.

Barnett, a public administration graduate student, explained her symptoms to a nurse and underwent testing for strep throat and the flu.

Fifteen minutes after the nurse swabbed deep inside Barnett’s nostrils, she returned with some news: “You don’t have the strep, but you do have the flu.”

The test revealed that Barnett was infected with influenza A, or the virus that leads to the H1N1 flu.

“When I found out, I was a little nervous,” Barnett said. “You hear all the news stories about people contracting it and it doesn’t go so well for them.”

Barnett said the nurse explained that the best course of action was for her to get plenty of rest and take Tamiflu.

The H1N1 flu strain first gained notoriety in 2009 when the swine flu pandemic claimed the lives of more than 8,000 people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This flu season has brought a similar scare to Texas, as the CDC listed the state as being one where influenza contraction is “widespread.”

Juan Rodriguez, chief epidemiologist for the Denton County Health Department, said the prevalence of the H1N1, or swine flu, has been the distinguishing factor between this flu season and the previous three.

Across North Texas, 49 flu deaths have been reported. Dallas County has been the most affected, as health officials there have a reported 35 confirmed flu deaths.

The Denton County Health Department has reported four deaths from the current flu season, the highest number since the 2009 swine flu pandemic.

Depicted here are a few of the items needed to administer the flu vaccine: latex gloves, alcohol wipes, a bandage, gauze, a thermometer and a syringe. The Health and Wellness Center offers many services to UNT students, but as of now the flu vaccine is not one of them. Photo by Zach Estrada / Intern Photographer

Depicted here are a few of the items needed to administer the flu vaccine: latex gloves, alcohol wipes, a bandage, gauze, a thermometer and a syringe. The Health and Wellness Center offers many services to UNT students, but as of now the flu vaccine is not one of them. Photo by Zach Estrada / Intern Photographer

Since Jan. 11, the county has reported a total of 178 positive flu tests.

It took only two days for Barnett to start feeling better, but she was told she was contagious for five days after the positive test.

Barnett said she never really feared the worst because her condition didn’t intensify enough for her to consider a visit to the emergency room.

“Besides the fever and the chills, it just felt like a really bad cold,” Barnett said.

“We didn’t think it would be that powerful of a strain,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez also said the timing of this flu season’s peak has been unusual.“Usually, the season will peak at the end of January or early February,” Rodriguez said. “It seems like it hit a lot earlier.”

Rodriguez said flu season typically stretches from October to May, and that different flu strains can become more prevalent during that eight-month period.

“Whatever is happening early doesn’t mean that’s the trend for the whole season,” Rodriguez said.

The demographic groups that concern county health officials the most are the very young and the very old but, Rodriguez said, that doesn’t mean people between the ages of 20 to 40 are safe from the flu.

“Healthy young people are less likely to get a flu shot,” Rodriguez said.

That, however, was not the case for the 30-year-old Denton County woman whose death was the most recent in the county. She had been vaccinated and had no additional medical conditions.

Bing Burton, director of the Denton County Health Department, told the Denton Record Chronicle that health officials believed about 95 percent of people who are vaccinated acquire immunity but not all do.

“We know not everyone develops immunity — not in a lab test, not ever,” Burton said to the DRC. “It’s not surprising some people get the vaccine and still get sick. That is just an outgrowth of our human capacities.”

Rodriguez said that a quadrivalent vaccine is available to Denton County residents. The vaccine contains four strains of the flu virus, including Type A, which can cause H1N1.

Getting a flu shot along with practicing good hygiene, Rodriguez said, is the best protection against the virus.

“We’ve seen that interest,” Rodriguez said. “People are concerned by what they’ve seen in the media.”

Availability of the flu vaccine is now mostly limited to private pharmacies like Walgreens or CVS.

The lowest price available in the city is at the Kroger on University Drive. The vaccine can be administered there for $28.

UNT’s Health and Wellness Center offered free flu shots to students on Jan. 2, 3 and 6, but supplies have since been exhausted.

An employee at the Denton County Health Department office said flu shots would be gone by the end of Jan. 22 and that the office would not be receiving additional vaccinations anytime soon. The Lewisville office has also run out of supplies.

The Denton Regional Urgent Care Center also reported that its flu vaccine supplies had run out and the center would not be receiving new shipments.

Barnett said that getting the flu shot earlier in the season would have been better than putting it off.

“It would probably be a lot cheaper than what I paid for my medicine,” Barnett said.

Graphic by Natalie Vosberg / Copy Assistant

Graphic by Natalie Vosberg / Copy Assistant

Brittni Barnett is a former NT Daily Arts and Life editor. Reporting contributed by Olivia Sylvain.

Feature photo: Posted on the front door of the Health and Wellness Center on Wednesday afternoon is a sign that indicates the lack of flu shots at UNT’s pharmacy. The pharmacy has not had any flu shots available since Jan. 6. Photo by Zach Estrada / Intern Photographer 

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