Kendra Lyn, NBC 5
Dallas County health officials say with an increase in flu numbers, immunizations may soon be harder to find.
As Dallas County prepares for what could be a nasty flu season, health experts are expecting a shortage of flu shots.
The latest information from the Dallas County Health Department shows in three weeks the number of flu cases has tripled in Dallas County.
Commissioners hope if residents haven’t gotten a flu shot already, the increased cases will prompt people to roll up their sleeves.
“I’ve had my shot. It’s not that painful,” says Judge Clay Jenkins. Jenkins is trying to set the example for everyone to get a flu shot. “It’s not too late to get a flu shot, if you get a flu shot today, you'll begin having protection from the flu within three days,” Jenkins said.
But don’t wait too long to get a shot. Dallas County Health Director Zachary Thompson says the department started with more than 10,000 doses a couple months ago and has been giving away free shots to those who financially qualify. Now, the department's down to just 3,000 shots.
“You’re going to run out, because there's just not enough flu vaccine out there that's manufactured. In January, when people say, ‘Now I'm to get the flu shot,’ it's going to be very tough,” Thompson said.
Flu season is just now ramping up in December and can last through February, even longer. At least 50 people have been hospitalized so far this season in Dallas County. One person died in October from a flu-related illness.
“We’re seeing a big uptick over the last two weeks in pretty serious flu cases. The flu is a killer the flu takes lives every year,” said Jenkins.
The latest Dallas County Health Department information shows the week of November 16, 19 people tested positive for either Influenza A or B. The next week the number doubled to 41. By the week of November 30 the number had climbed to 67. The county has yet to release numbers for December.
Leaders say it's up to everyone to help stop the flu from spreading any faster.
“We feel it's going to be a pretty challenging season,” said Commissioner John Wiley Price. “ I think we just kind of say it's the flu. Flu has been known to be pretty devastating, so you don't take any chances. It’s contagious. If you're sick, stay home.”
The health director says check with your pharmacy or physician about their shot supply. Thompson says finding a flu vaccination in January could be like finding a needle in a haystack.
The county offers free flu shots for qualified residents, including children who are covered under the Texas Vaccines For Children program. Click here for more information on that program.
NBC 5's Kendra Lyn contributed to this report.