Flu Widespread in Texas But Not in Houston

Here we are two thirds of the way through the flu season, and flu is spreading like wildfire -almost- everywhere in the state, but not in Houston. Health officials say it's because people are wising up and getting flu shots. Houston Public Radio's Jim Bell reports.

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The flu outbreak is hitting so many people in other parts of Texas the Centers for Disease Control ranks the Texas outbreak as "Widespread," the highest classification. Schools all over the state are reporting high absentee rates due to flu, and several entire school districts in east Texas closed for two days this week because so many children were absent. Compared to that, Houston is practically a flu-free zone. City health department spokeswoman Cathy Barton says all their usual indicators show light flu activity.

,em>"We have not seen hospital emergency rooms on diversion, like we would see if it was a heavy flu season. We have not seen a lot of absenteeism from the local schools due to influenza-like symptoms."

Even private health clinics are reporting almost no cases of flu. Barton says it's not hard to see why. It's because so many more people are now getting flu shots, especially children.

,em>"Well I think the last several years we've really been pushing flu immunization for children, because they communicate flu and other infectious diseases so well, but also emphasizing flu vaccine for anybody who wants to get it."

Barton says flu season is expected to run through March, and she urges people to protect themselves and get a flu shot. She says there's plenty of flu vaccine available everywhere. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.