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Doctors Anticipate Early Flu Season

By Natalie Potts
By npotts@wbbjtv.com

JACKSON, Tenn. - Experts believe our mild summer, which saw lower humidity levels and cooler temperatures, will play a part in an earlier flu season.

Doctors said traditionally flu season doesn't start until the first few weeks of October. Cases typically peak in January and February.
Physicians in West Tennessee are already treating flu patients.

"We've already seen several cases. We've even had office staff that we've had to send home because of the flu," M.D Kellie Wilding, of The Jackson Clinic said.

According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, last year, millions of people got sick with the flu. Some experienced symptoms for up to two weeks. Officials said 36,000 people died last year from flu complications across the country.

"We're expecting an early flu season and probably a bad flu season once again," Brett Hawley said, Clinic Manager West of Tennessee Health Care's Employee Health Dept. . "We had a problem last year where it hit us pretty hard, especially in children and older adults."

Doctors said this year some vaccinations will include four different strands of the virus instead of the typical three. Despite what some believe, experts said it is impossible to get the flu from getting vaccinated because the strands in the vaccine are dead.

"The flu shot used to be formulated to last only three months. It's now formulated to last six months to a year," Dr. Wilding said. "So there's not really a reason to wait until the season begins to get a shot."

Officials said those at high risk for getting the flu include children, adults 65 and older, those who are pregnant and anyone suffering from any pre-existing health conditions. Caretakers of children and elderly are also highly encouraged to get vaccinated.

Proper hand washing is considered one of the best way to combat the germs.

Health officials said not only are flu cases going to be a problem this year, but doctors said they are seeing an alarming number of cases of whooping cough.

Officials said there have been several cases nationwide. Doctors said Tennessee is currently one of the states on the watch list. Last year there were reportedly 30 neo-natal deaths in Tennessee related to whooping cough.