JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - With a third confirmed case of Ebola in the United States, the country is on high alert. Ebola symptoms, though, are very similar to those of the common flu virus, raising concern in Arkansas.
Dr. Shane Speights, with St. Bernards, says you are more likely to get the flu in Arkansas than Ebola, but the symptoms are the same. Dr. Speights described various symptoms. "Muscle aches, both are going to cause fever. You're going to be tired. You may have abdominal pain."
Because symptoms are similar, the first question a doctor may ask is have you gotten a flu shot? And according to Brian Oholendt, Gibson's Pharmacy, a flu shot could help speed up treatment and diagnosis.
"At least one thing they could check off. Well it's not this because the faster they can identify it the faster treatment starts."
Inconveniently enough, Oholendt said it hasn't been easy getting flu vaccines. "It has been a little bit of a challenge as far as if you hadn't already stocked up." The challenge has caused Gibson's pharmacy to share its flu vaccine supply with NEA hospital and other local clinics.
Oholendt said, even with the shortage, there are vaccines available in Jonesboro. Dr. Speights said regardless of symptoms, history has a lot to do with contracting Ebola. "The key point on do I have Ebola," Speights said, "is have I been to West Africa? Or have I been hanging out with someone who has Ebola?"
With flu season on the horizon and Ebola continuing to be a concern, Dr. Speights encourages everyone to be proactive and aware. "I certainly wouldn't go into panic. I would be educated. I would be educated and just make sure I know what's going on."
Doctors want to stress a flu shot will not protect you from Ebola, but it is a good first step in staying healthy and helping doctors distinguish differences in flu and Ebola symptoms.