ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Southwest Georgia doctors haven't had much of a break from last year's flu season as they deal with the start of this year's.
One doctor at Phoebe hasn't gone two weeks without seeing a patient with flu-like symptoms, and that's since last year.
It's part of the reason why many paramedics have to wait to unload patients.
Dougherty County EMS was getting slammed with emergency calls dealing with the flu.
A sign that influenza is here, one month ahead of schedule.
"I'm not even sure that we actually got out of last year's flu season," Dr. James Black remarked.
Dr. Black has already treated a high number of flu cases at Phoebe Putney Hospital.
"It poses a particular challenge but we're working on several different strategies in order to combat that knowing that it's coming this year," explained Dr. Black.
Part of the problem was that patients confuse flu symptoms with a cold.
"Sometimes the body aches we think of more than just a typical cold, but again the most important part is coming in within 48 hours of onset of symptoms," said Dr. Black.
Several medical staff are stationed throughout the ER to quickly evaluate patients and to determine who needs to be treated first.
"No matter where you show up you will be appropriately evaluated. If we don't think you need to stand the ER wait or the ER charge, we'll certainly direct you to another place to get the appropriate care," Dr. Black explained.
Residents can get treated for the flu at the community care clinic, but they can't get tested.
Phoebe doctors may also stop testing as we move into the thick of flu season in November and December.
"Is it still possible to get the flu even though you're vaccinated? Certainly but it lessens the chance that you will and lessens the severity if you get the flu," Dr. Black reiterated.
With several thousand people dying every year from it, Dr. Black urges residents to not underestimate the flu.
He recommends anyone over six months of age should to get the influenza vaccine.
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