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      Warning signs point to busy flu season

      The Hidalgo County Health Department is encouraging everyone to get their flu vaccination with all signs pointing to a busy flu season.

      This year the health department is using a more advanced system to track illnesses and what they see is an indication of an increase in flu cases this year.

      Confirming a flu case takes time, time the health department doesn't have.

      Instead of waiting for lab results, the health department has partnered with the area hospitals to track emergency room admissions.

      "We will see the information earlier through ER Admins than if we wait for lab results so it TMs an early indicator that will help out staff be ready and investigate sooner, Hidalgo County Health & Human Services Epidemiologist Belinda Medrano said.

      Medrano tracks any trends that may cause the public to take extra precaution.

      "We can see if there is an increase in certain illnesses that may be due to an outbreak, Medrano said.

      When it comes to the flu, the health department looks for any influenza like illnesses.

      Influenza illnesses have been more prominent in the elementary schools of some of the school districts where the person shows up with fever, body aches, chills, the classic symptoms of the flu, Chief Administrative Officer for Hidalgo County Health Department Eddie Olivarez said.

      Olivarez says the school districts have been instrumental in forecasting an increase in flu cases, but with the hospitals now on board they can narrow in on any epidemic.

      "We can track ER admissions by fever, abdominal pain, and we see a trend of a pattern, Olivarez said.

      Patient names are however not released.

      The best defense if you don't want to get sick is to get the stick.

      "Get your flu vaccine shot now! Olivarez said.

      For those of you who have heard the vaccine gives you the flu, it absolutely does not.

      However, if you feel you begin to show signs of the flu and then go get a shot, it won't prevent the virus.

      Each year influenza kills 30,000 people in the U.S. alone.