Las Cruces Sun-News

Our region is in the throes of death-by-disease. So far the seasonal flu virus has taken three lives in El Paso and five in New Mexico.

And it's not just here. Higher-than-usual numbers for the flu have been reported nationwide.

Most victims have been elderly. All five flu deaths in New Mexico were to people over the age of 56, two victims were in their 90s Whereas steps can be taken to ward off the virus, this serves notice, too, that watching over the well-being of senior citizens should be everyone's concern.

That's especially important at this time of year when there are health issue due to cold temperatures. Since November, there have been more than 120 carbon monoxide cases in El Paso and in Juarez.

With health care costs rising for virtually everyone, it's important to note that the poor and the elderly on fixed incomes are vulnerable to seasonal maladies.

Here, it is not too late to get a flu shot. It's not known how long this flu season will last. Usually it ends in March or April.

Health officials say there is not a shortage of the vaccine.

"The influenza season started early and rates of flu-related hospitalizations are higher than they have been in recent years," said State Epidemiologist Dr. Michael Landen. "If you are not already vaccinated, it is important to get vaccinated now."

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention theorize that this year's flu strain is spread mainly by droplets when a sick person coughs, sneezes or talks. The CDC also reports that healthy adults can infect others even before they feel symptoms and up to a week after they've become sick.

Covering coughs and sneezes is important. Use tissues. Or, if it's one of those quick-to-come sneezes, use the bend of your elbow.

Keeping one's hands away from one's face is important. So is the thorough washing of hands with soap or an alcohol-based hand cleaner.

Strains of flu vary from year to year. The best advice for warding off flu and other diseases even common colds is to use caution. And check on the well-being of the elderly during this especially bad flu season.