Area medical experts urge public to get flu vaccinations

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WINSTON COUNTY, Miss. (WCBI) – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were over 61,000 flu-related deaths in the U.S. last year.

This year, there have already been reports of a few more flu-related deaths, including a 4-year-old from California.

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Here at home, school nurses in Lowndes County were seeing cases of the flu as early as August.

Tibby Koon is the Director of Nursing at Winston Medical Center in Winston County.

She typically doesn’t start seeing flu patients until late October.

“We haven’t seen that many cases yet, but we hear that it is going to be early this year, so we encourage everyone to get out and get their flu shot early,” said Koon.

Koon said the hospital receives regular updates from the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta.

This year, the CDC is predicting a very busy flu season.

“Stay away from the flu. Stay away from the hospital unless you’re sick… Drink plenty of liquids, of course. Take the flu shot, and just take care of yourself health-wise,” said Koon.

Adam Byrd specializes in Dermatology, but he works at Winston Medical Center several days out of the month– often treating flu patients.

He said there’s a big push for the flu shot this year.

“Just trying to get everybody vaccinated as much a possible… Vaccination campaigns like they have here today… I think you can pay twenty-five dollars and get vaccinated,” said Byrd.

He said there are some misconceptions about the vaccine.

“The vaccination doesn’t prevent all cases of the flu, but if it is a well-matched strain, it can reduce your risk by forty to sixty percent, I think… You can still get the flu if you get vaccinated, but I think if you do get the flu it might be less severe, and you might have a lot less risk of getting hospitalized with it,” said Byrd.

Whether this year’s flu is widespread or not, experts said it’s smart to take precautions.

“I advise people to come to the emergency room or go see their family physician and get tested because we have tests for that and we can determine whether they actually do have the flu and get the medication started early. That helps,” said Koon.

“Worst case scenario, if the vaccine is not a very good one that year, I don’t think there’s much risk at all from getting vaccinated,” said Byrd.

Doctors said it typically takes two weeks to build up your immunity after getting a flu shot.

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