Flu comes early to southwest Georgia - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Flu comes early to southwest Georgia

November 6, 2006

Albany--  If you haven't gotten your flu shot yet, you might want to roll up your sleeve soon.

Health officials say they are seeing more cases of the flu earlier than usual.

Even though the virus is easily preventable, it can be fatal if you're not careful.

Believe it or not, each year the flu accounts for almost 36,000 deaths in America and more the 200,000 hospitalizations.

With that in mind, physicians are urging their patients to get the shot as soon as possible or risk suffering the consequence in the long run.

With flu season in full swing, doctor Derek Heard is getting ready for another busy season of treating sick patients.

Derek Heard, "Oh, gosh, I'd say at least twenty to thirty per season that I personally see."

But this year, he says, many of his patients aren't willing to gamble with their health.

Derek Heard, "I think the word has gotten out now that the flu vaccine is safe and that it can save lives."

Derek Heard, "At least ten people a day are coming in asking for the flu vaccine or calling the office."

Physicians warn more people should also follow suit and for a very good reason.

Brenda Greene, "We're seeing a rise in the increase of cases reported in our district."

Brenda Greene serves as district director of nursing for the Southwest Georgia Public health district. She says the flu outbreak has arrived early.

Brenda Greene, "For our district, typically, we don't see an increase or a significant number of cases until much later in the season, probably after Christmas into January."

Greene says there are symptoms to watch for.

Brenda Greene, "Usually, you'll have fever, cough, general aches and pains."

Ignoring those signs could be fatal.

Derek Heard, "If you really have influenza, it can be very serious, it can lead to problems with pneumonia, which of course, can lead to death."

The key to avoiding getting sick stay clear of germs and avoid spreading them.

Brenda Greene, "Washing their hands with soap and water and hot water, and washing them for a significant period of time at least twenty seconds."

With cooler temperatures fast approaching, Heard has already stocked up on the vaccine.

Derek Heard, "We got our shipment last week and it's already going off the shelf quickly."

And for Heard that's a good news. More people getting the shot, means fewer people getting sick.

The Southwest Georgia Public Health District also has a full supply of the flu vaccine.

Health officials there ordered more than 2,200 viles of the vaccine for all of its 14 counties back in January, so in case you haven't gotten the shot just yet, there's no excuse not to.

The elderly, young children, and anyone with chronic conditions such as diabetes are more at risk for the flu.

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