Health Department urges central Florida residents to get flu shots

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ORLANDO, Fla. - Local clinics said they're bracing for a mid-season flu rush as people try to protect themselves from a a potentially deadly flu that is responsible for five deaths in central Florida this year.

Channel 9 confirmed Thursday the latest death was a young, school-aged child in Orange County.

The Florida Department of Health in Orange County confirmed the death but did not release the identity of the child.

While it may appear as if there is an increase in deaths this season, Channel 9's Karla Ray found the number of deaths is actually about the same as last year, according to the Department of Health, which said individual H1N1 cases do seem to be more severe this year.

With peak flu season weeks away, officials are urging central Florida residents to get flu shots.

Officials said the swine flu is back and for the first time since the pandemic of 2009, it's making more people sick than other strains of the flu.

"People can get it and then they get those complications that they talked about and then die," said Dain Weister of the Health Department.

Flu shots contain an H1N1 vaccine, but thousands of people refrain from getting the shot each year.

"In theory, everyone should be protected but the reality is only about 20 percent of people get their flu shot," said Dr. Tim Hendrix.

But with news of the fifth death circulating, clinics like CentraCare said they're expecting a mid-season rush of people trying to protect themselves.

"When we get to peak activity, we've still got two months of activity ahead of us," said Hendrix. "So there's still a lot of time to get your flu shot and protect yourself for the rest of the season."