JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - With cases of influenza popping up in Region 8, doctors say now is the time to get vaccinated.
"We are seeing the flu already this year," said Dr. Kasey Holder, vice president of medical affairs for St. Bernards Medical Center. "We've seen several cases within our community within the past few weeks. It is a little bit earlier than usual. The CDC's recommendation is to get a flu shot by the end of October."
Because the flu has shown up earlier than usual, many aren't vaccinated yet.
"A lot of people haven't received the flu shot just yet," Holder said. "We are really encouraging people to go ahead and get their flu shot. It takes about two weeks for your body to develop the antibodies from the vaccination that can actually protect you from the flu. So, it's really important to just go ahead and get that done."
Dr. Holder said luckily a number of schools and businesses have already jumped on board.
"We've got a lot of schools that are already doing vaccination days," Holder said. "So, that's great. And some employers are doing that, as well. But if you don't have that benefit offered to you then you need to get into your primary care physician's office or one of the local pharmacies that administer flu shots."
Holder said you cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine.
"The flu vaccination is an inactivated vaccine," Holder said. "Meaning it does not have any live virus in it. There are actually two different kinds of flu vaccinations. One contains vaccination against three viruses and there is one against four. And so, you get a little additional protection on the other vaccine that has the four viruses in it. But again, they are not live viruses. You cannot get the flu from a flu shot. It just stimulates your body's immune response to the flu virus so you can fight off the virus if you are exposed to it."
Holder said the vaccine protects you from getting the flu and reduces the severity of symptoms.
"If you do get the flu, which you can still get the flu even with the flu vaccination if it happens to be one of the strains that wasn't covered, the risk of potential complications from the flu is less," she said. "The duration of the flu is less and the severity of the symptoms is less if you've had the flu vaccination. Most importantly for kids, there was a study done recently that showed the flu vaccination can reduce the risk of death in children if they do get the flu."
Dr. Holder said if you have an infant less than 6 months old, they cannot be vaccinated. So, make sure anyone around that child has had their shot.
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