21st suspected N. Texas flu death reported; churches & schools c - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

21st suspected N. Texas flu death reported; churches & schools cautious

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The death of a Wise County father of six is believed to be the 21st flu death in North Texas.

The victim, Chris Waskom, lived in Slidell and was a ministry leader at his church in Krum.

His wife says that he was first diagnosed with something else. Then, after he died, she found out from the medical examiner that he had H1N1.

So far, there have been 18 flu-related deaths reported in Dallas County and two in Denton County. All are believed to be H1N1.

"He was running a fever, coughing," said Lacy Waskom, Chris' husband.

Lacy and Chris spent Christmas Day in the emergency room.

"He sounded kind of like someone with asthma," said Lacy. "Kind of raspy."

She was told Chris, an otherwise healthy 41-year-old man, had bronchitis.

Over the next few days, it became worse, and a fever set in.  

Another trip to the doctor provided the same diagnosis. However, things took a turn for the worst on New Year's Eve.

"He just laid down to take a nap, and I went in there to check on him a few hours later and found him," said Lacy.  

Even after his death, Lacy had no answers as to why her husband died until she heard back from the medical examiner.

Only then did she learn that he had the H1N1 strain of the flu, as well as pneumonia.

"He was a perfectly healthy 41-year-old man," said Waskom. "No blood pressure, no heart problems, no medical conditions whatsoever, and then just come down with the flu with a mixture of pneumonia, and this is what happened."

Lacy says her husband didn't get a flu shot, and neither did she.

With no health insurance, they opted instead to spend the money on flu shots for their six kids.

"It's gonna be difficult for a while, a long while," said Lacy.

Chris was a master plumber and had just started his own company, but his heart was in ministry at the Open Range Cowboy Church in Krum.

"We lost a brother and a real friend," said Pastor Earl Bengston, adding that Chris was training to be the church's arena ministry pastor.

Bengston says the death has many of the congregation now re-evaluating their health and deciding to get the flu shot.

"It's got some of the people in the congregation scared to death," he said.

Spreading the flu

Crowds are a big breeding ground for the virus, so some other area religious organizations, along with schools, are urging good hygiene. When thousands fill pews for mass Sunday, the Catholic Diocese of Dallas will let parishioners choose to wave instead of shake hands and decide whether to drink from the communal chalice.

At a high school basketball game in south Oak Cliff Wednesday night, cleanliness and the flu were the last thing on Kimball and Seagoville athletes' minds.

Forget passing and shooting -- the basketball itself might be the most germ-ridden object in the building. Besides ball handling, players share towels, water bottles, lockers and snot.

Stephanie Pace worries about her Seagoville basketball player son bringing home the flu.

"I have fibromyalgia, and it causes crazy stuff to happen in my body, so if I get the flu, it's going to make my fibromyalgia worse," said Pace.

Pace got a flu shot, but her boys didn't.

North Texas school districts urge families to get everyone vaccinated.

In a letter sent to Dallas ISD students, parents and staff and health officials suggest checking for flu symptoms every morning.

If an employee or student is sick, they should stay home and not return to school until 24 hours after a fever has cleared.

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