Here’s a fun fact: Every time a media outlet writes about vaccines, dozens of acolytes of Jenny McCarthy, noted medical researcher and former host of MTV’s Singled Out, come screaming out of the woodwork to insist that it’s all “vaccine industry propaganda” designed to get unsuspecting readers to poison themselves and their children.

Here’s a less fun fact: Eight people have been diagnosed with a life-threatening, flu-like illness in Montgomery County this month. Four of them have died, and two of the remaining patients has tested positive for H1N1—the so-called “swine flu.” 

The eight patients, ranging in age from 41 to 68, were admitted to the hospital with similar flu-like symptoms. No details were available Thursday on the dates of the deaths or hospitalizations.

Meanwhile, local media, quoting unnamed sources, said H1N1 has already killed six people and left 14 critically ill in the Greater Houston area recently. The toll cannot be verfied immediately.

Spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services, Christine Mann, said Thursday her agency is aware of suspected flu cases that Montgomery County public health officials are investigating. She said the county is sending specimens to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more extensive testing and confirmation.

“We’ll wait and see what they find,” Mann said, adding that the H1N1 virus, formerly known as swine flu, is the predominant strain this season, which started in September and typically runs until spring.

Given the busy travel season and the intrinsic human desire not to die of flu-like symptoms, now seems like it might be a pretty good time to defy the wisdom of the New Year’s Rockin’ Eve correspondent and consider getting a 2013 flu shot, which protects against H1N1