Local doctors seeing early onset of strong flu season

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – The Influenza virus is spreading muchstronger and much earlier than expected across the country and close to home.

Local doctors have recently seen an unusually high number ofpeople suffering from the flu or flu-like symptoms for this time of year.

They are still recommending people to acquire the best defenseagainst the virus – the flu vaccine.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,about one in three people have already gotten a flu shot this year. Doctors saythose people are better prepared to fend off the flu.

"We're seeing a fair amount [of flu cases] in the hospitaland of course the clinics," said Dr. Shane Speights, a hospitalist at St.Bernards Medical Center in Jonesboro. "We're seeing a pretty high level of thesymptoms as well as positive flu by exam or by test."

Dr. Speights has recently treated more people suffering fromthe typical flu symptoms, like aches, fever, nausea and fatigue. Despite this troublingtrend, he says there is some good news.

"Fortunately, the types of flu that we're seeing, thedifferent strains, are compatible with the vaccine that's out there," Dr.Speights said. "For people that haven't gotten their vaccine yet, we want toremind them it's not too late to get it. It takes about two weeks for it tokick in, so the sooner you can get your vaccine, the better you are at beingprotected."

Even for those who have gotten vaccinated, Dr. Speights saysthey still run the risk of getting sick.

"You can actually still get the flu," he said. "You can getInfluenza even if you have the vaccine, though it will probably be a shortercourse.

"You're probably not going to be sick down in the bed forfive, six, seven, eight, 10 days. It may just be a two- to three-day deal."

Dr. Speights says the vaccine is approved for anyone sixmonths of age and older and is recommended for almost everyone. Small children,the elderly and their caregivers are highly encouraged to get a flu shotbecause they are at an increased risk of contracting the virus and fallingseriously ill.

The Arkansas Department of Health reports that flu shots arebeing offered in every local health unit in the state, physicians' offices,pharmacies, major retail and other locations around the state.

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