Flu season gets early start this year

Health officials see uptick in cases in South

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Health officials have concerns that flu season is getting an early start this year, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seeing an uptick in cases at least a month earlier than usual.

Flu strains are circulating the country, and so far the majority of cases appear to be in the South.

"It started out in the northern patients with the travelers that came into town, and we're seeing it more and more with our local patients," eMed Dr. Rene Pulido said.

The good news is that this year's flu vaccine is a 90 percent match for the circulating strains.

"I'm not seeing too many people that have been vaccinated coming in shortly after with the flu like we have seen with years past," Pulido said.

Doctors say they are seeing more cases in adults instead of children. The symptoms to look out for are fever, muscle aches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Doctors say the best way to prevent getting the flu is to get the vaccine.

"We are recommending it because that little bit of money can probably save you a week's worth of work because people getting the flu is really knocking them out for about a week," Pulido said.

Especially with the holidays around the corner, doctors say they expect more patients to come in with the flu.

"The increase in travel is actually going to make the passing of the virus a lot more frequent," Pulido said.

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection.

"Even without insurance, getting a flu shot will cost you about $30," Pulido said.

If you have insurance, the price will depend on your coverage and co-pay, but doctors say you can go to any pharmacy, urgent care center and primary physician to get vaccinated.

Not everyone should get the flu shot without talking to their doctor first. Among them are people who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs, people who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination, children younger than 6 months, and people who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever. They should wait until they recover.

Looking at the flu trend online with a flu tracker, Jacksonville is a little above the national average of cases. So if you cannot get the vaccination, talk to your doctor about possible antiviral medications you can take to keep the bug away.

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