Hospitals, clinics see spike in flu activity

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - There are rising concerns about the flu as local hospitals and clinics fill up with patients testing positive.

Dr. Kasey Holder, the Vice President of Medical Affairs at St. Bernards Medical Center, said flu cases have really picked up regionally and across the state over the past few weeks.

According to the most recent weekly flu report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Arkansas reported widespread activity.

Since October, 4,600 positive flu tests have been reported.

Craighead and White counties are among the top counties reporting flu activity.

Many of those cases are people who did get the flu vaccine, though.

Dr. Holder says the vaccine is only 40% to 60% effective on a good year.

This year it is speculated that the vaccine may only be about 10% effective. That is based on Australia's recent flu season.

But Dr. Holder says it is still a good idea to get the shot.

"Fortunately, a lot of times, there's still some crossover in the immunity you get from the vaccine," Dr. Holder said. "So it can still reduce the severity of your symptoms and the duration of your symptoms so even if you get it it's not as bad as it could have been."

You will want to see a doctor if you have symptoms including body aches, headaches, runny nose, coughing, fever, or chills.

"Symptoms are like a cold but will be worse than a cold, typically," Dr. Holder said.

If you do believe you have the flu, going to a doctor is important.

"There are medications that you can take to shorten the duration of the symptoms and also reduce the risk some of the complications from the flu," Dr. Holder said. "So especially if you have other risk factors that put you at risk for having more severe flu symptoms, you need to see your primary care doctor."

Those risk factors include emphysema, asthma, or anything that weakens your immune system like cancer or diabetes.

People over the age of 65 and under 2-years-old are also at a higher risk for complications.

Dr. Holder also said it is not too late to get a flu shot. The peak of flu season has not hit yet.

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