SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. (WMC) - You may want to reconsider getting your flu shot if you haven’t already gotten it.
Health officials are noticing a new trend that could lead to an increase in the number of people infected with the virus.
In Shelby County, there have been Over 14,000 visits to the Emergency Department for flu-like symptoms since last October. What’s worse local health officials say they don’t know if the season has peaked or it will increase again.
“Our peak was around Christmas week when 25 percent of hospital visits was for flu-like symptoms,” said the Director for Shelby County Health Department Dr. Alisa Haushalter.
Since then the number of people complaining of the flu in emergency rooms has dropped to 12 percent over the past 10 days.
However, Dr. Haushalter says that may soon change. “We do have circulating flu influenza B, but we’re now starting to see Influenza A and we can have a spike as a result of that,” said Dr. Haushalter.
While “flu-like symptoms” are what are used to detect flu numbers for the Health Department, places like Christ Community Health Services actually keep track of confirmed cases of the flu.
Chief clinical officer Dr. Benjamin Andrews at Christ Community Health Services says their centers in West Tennessee are already seeing an increase in flu cases.
In the last seven days they have seen 25 patients with the flu and 57 total cases since the beginning of the year.
“Specifically children between the ages of six months and eight years may need to receive two shots during the season if the child has never been vaccinated before,” said Dr. Andrews.
Dr. Haushalter says children under the age of four are particularly susceptible to the flu virus.
“And what we know is that if a child is vaccinated, even if they get the flu, they would not be as ill as if they were not vaccinated and some cases having received the vaccine you can save their life," she said.
A perfectly healthy 4-year-old girl in Iowa who didn’t get vaccinated this season was left blind after getting the flu Christmas Eve. Doctors don’t know if she’ll ever get her sight back.
The girl had Influenza B. That’s a strain that began circulating much earlier in the season than normal.
There are about three months left in the flu season and Dr. Haushalter says getting the vaccine is still highly recommended. CNN is reporting that the flu vaccine is not a very good match with 42 percent still getting the flu even with the vaccination.
But Dr. Haushalter says the vaccine does offer some protection and you are likely not to get as sick.
The flu shot is free and available at any Shelby county department health clinic.
Dr. Haushalter says it’s important to remember to wash your hands frequently during the flu season, but if you do start experiencing flu-like symptoms avoid public places as not to spread the virus. She says it’s best to call your health care provider and they can provide anti-viral medications.