SYLACAUGA, Ala. – The flu is coming early this year, and medical professionals are advising to get the flu shot as soon as possible.

Jeff Wood, Infection Preventionist at Coosa Valley Medical Center, said it is key to get the flu vaccine and get it early.

The 2017-2018 flu season was deadly. The CDC estimates there were over 31 million cases nationwide, 14.5 million medical visits, 186 out of every 100,000 hospitalized, and 180 people died nationwide. The emergency department at CVMC was inundated with people. “We strive to best serve everyone who came in the doors,” said Wood. “We strive to get everyone seen quickly and efficiently, but when there are that many people, we experienced longer wait times and longer admit times than usual. We really want to do good with the community, so that put us at a loss for what we were able to do.”

Wood said hopefully this year will not be as problematic as in the past. “Last year, there was a last minute mutation in the virus. This year, there are several different types of viruses in the flu vaccine, so hopefully that will be effective to what is out there.”

Even though there are claims the flu vaccine does not work, Wood said you still have a layer of protection. He said even if the vaccine is not 100 percent effective, it reduces the chance of being hospitalized or dying of the flu.

The flu spreads through droplets. If you are within six feet of a person, and that person is talking to you and they cough or sneeze, the flu droplet can go from their mouth to your mouth. If you touch a surface the virus is on, then touch your hand to your mouth or your nose, the flu can be transmitted that way, as well. You can also spread the disease without being sick. You can have the virus, spread it, then get sick a few days later.

Flu symptoms to look out for are high fever, cough, aching joints, and headache. The main one to look for is a high fever. The common cold has symptoms very similar, other than the high fever. Usually the fever will be higher than 100.4 degrees.

Other ways to prevent the flu are washing your hands, use disinfectant wipes on shopping carts, avoid those who are already sick. If you are already sick, cover your cough, sneeze, use a tissue, and stay away from people and do not go out in public. If you live in a house with other people, stay in a room by yourself.

Be prepared in case you get the flu. Have a plan for your kids, for food, and other necessities you may need or to cover responsibilities you may have.

Last year, CVMC ran low on personal protective equipment, which is something the staff is better preparing for this year. These things, including masks and gloves, help prevent the spread of the flu. The CVMC staff are getting extra supplies in stock, so the danger of running out will not occur this year. CVMC is also getting hand hygiene stations in front of the emergency department, which will have masks, hand foam and tissues.  Wood encouraged anyone coming to the emergency department waiting room to wear a mask.

Flu season is typically from October to March, but there have already been two patients hospitalized with the flu this year. Wood said this is uncommon, but you can get the flu anytime.

Those who are recommended to get the vaccine, and will be given priority if the vaccine supply is limited are children aged 6-59 months, adults over 50-years-old, those with chronic pulmonary, cardiovascular, renal, hepatic, neurologic, hematologic, or metabolic disorders, those who are immunocompromised due to any cause, women who are or will be pregnant during the flu season, children and adolescents receiving aspirin or salicylate-containing medications and who might be at risk for Reye syndrome, residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. In the past, people with egg allergies were not able to get the flu shot, but this year, those people are able to take the flu vaccine this year.

There is a recommendation now that adults over the age of 65 should receive the high dose of the vaccine. The high dose has been proven to be more effective than the regular dose of the flu vaccine.

If you have not gotten your flu shot, CVMC is offering it now.

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