JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Flu-like illnesses are already above average this season, with flu cases rapidly increasing across the nation in the last two weeks, and the numbers are expected rise further in the coming weeks, according to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Local doctors anticipate seeing the same trend in the Jacksonville area, saying that the worst of the flu will be approaching in the next few weeks.
"Usually, within two weeks of schools getting back together, that's when the spike of illnesses go out," Dr. Thomas Connolly told News4Jax on Tuesday.
Though local doctors have yet not seen the typical explosion of flu cases in the beginning of the year, Connolly said, that will quickly change as more people return from holiday travel and go back to school and work.
"You kind of give them a week or two to cough on on each other, and then it's going to begin. So I'm betting by Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, we're going to be getting it," Connolly said.
It's also possible that Northeast Florida could be hit hard by the flu because not as many people have been vaccinated. Connolly said his office, Carithers Pediatric Group, is usually running low on its supply of flu vaccines in January. But this year, he said, it's a different story, with the office still stocked with plenty of vaccines.
According to the CDC, the peak month for influenza activity can range from December to March, which is why getting vaccinated now still offers health benefits. The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older.
"Because flu can kill kids. One hundred and fifty kids die from the flu on average most years," Connolly said.
Doctors advise prevention is key.
Anyone who is thinking about getting a flu shot should check with a doctor. It takes about two weeks after vaccination to develop protective antibodies and for protection to set in,
On top of getting vaccinated, health officials said, people should cover their mouths when sneezing or coughing, avoid people who are sick and wash their hands washing.