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Patients Wait for Hours to Get Help for the Flu

By Natalie Potts
By npotts@wbbjtv.com

JACKSON, Tenn.- Tennessee is now one of five states in the nation with the highest rate of influenza cases, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Heath experts said this year the flu has spread locally earlier than what's considered normal flu season. This week, three Madison County Schools were closed. Tennessee Department of Health is offering free seasonal flu vaccines at most county health departments across the state in an effort to prevent more cases. Health departments in some metro areas including Madison County are not part of the state free vaccine.

West Tennesseans told WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News that they've waited hours in clinics across the area just to see if they're part of this growing epidemic.

"As of right now we've been waiting two hours its three hour wait," said patient Stephanie Butler.

Patients said right now the wait time to see a doctor is several hours in most clinics.

"Clinics have been full their parking lots. Inside people are wearing masks to keep from spreading it," said Kathy Gardner.

Doctor Peter Gardner who is the Medical Director at Physicians Quality Care said he is seeing flu cases rise into the hundreds.

"I've never had this many people actually come in and register positive," said Doctor Gardner. "Out of the 300 people that we will see I will see 100 positives and I will see 100 who don't register positive, but who have it."

Pharmacists in some local CVS and Walgreen's stores said they have run out of the prescription drug Tami-Flu due to the high number of cases in West Tennessee. Doctors said Tami-flu is used for high risk patients who are elderly, pregnant or have previous chronic conditions.

"It's definitely a scary thought for them to get the flu and it become something much worse than the flu," said Butler.

Doctors said there have been some serious cases reported in this outbreak.

"I've seen more cases of pneumonia associated with flu in children then I've seen in the last 5 years so it's a big deal," said Doctor Gardner.

Pharmacists said they are working on getting and keeping new shipments of the drug Tami-flu. Experts said some tips to staying well are to wash hands frequently, cover a cough and stay inside if the person has a fever.