SOUTHFIELD (WWJ) – Health officials say the flu season is off to its earliest start in nearly 10 years — and it could be a bad one.
Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say this year’s flu season is the earliest since 2003-04 and that was considered a severe flu year.
Doctors also say the primary strain circulating now is one that tends to cause more severe illness, especially in the elderly, and they’re urging people to get vaccinated now. This not only will help keep people from getting the flu, but it will help prevent the spread of the virus from normally healthy people to others who might be more susceptible to it.
A pediatrician at Southfield Pediatrics, Dr. George Blum, said they typically see the most cases of the flu at the end of January and in February, but they’re seeing cases now and have been for a month.
“We have given a lot of children the flu vaccines, trying to keep ahead of that and we’re almost out of the vaccine now,” Blum told WWJ’s Beth Fisher. “The children we’ve seen have not been sicker than and, fortunately, if we catch them within the first two days you can give them a medicine called Tamiflu which seems to shorten the course of the disease and hopefully keep the patients from getting real sick.”
Blum encourages his patients that are six months and older to get a flu shot of the nasal mist to prevent the flu, but he says they’re almost out of the vaccine and have ordered more.
The CDC said more than a third of Americans have been vaccinated, and the vaccine is well matched to the strains of flu so far. Last year, just under 50 percent of adults and children got a flu vaccine, according to the CDC.