Local doctors seeing early onset of strong flu season - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Local doctors seeing early onset of strong flu season

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

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

They are still recommending people to acquire the best defense against 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 say those people are better prepared to fend off the flu.

"We're seeing a fair amount [of flu cases] in the hospital and 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 the symptoms as well as positive flu by exam or by test."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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