Mid-South doctors calling this worst flu season - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Mid-South doctors calling this worst flu season

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says this flu season is near epidemic levels: Cases are being reported in 47 states, up from 41 states last week. On the same note, they're also saying number of cases in the south is tapering off.

But in the Mid-South, they say it's too close to call.

Dr. Mark Castellaw at Baptist's Minor Medical Clinic says in his 30 years of medical practice this is the worst flu season he has seen.

Kelly Badura, a Physician Assistant at the clinic says, "Half of those sick visits who have flu-like symptoms – at least, if not more – have flu-like symptoms and the majority of the time we're testing them, it's positive."

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Schools still have not seen the dramatic rise in absence, but LeBonheur Children's Hospital suspects that's because the majority of kids they're seeing with the flu are two-year-olds.

"Two different viruses that sometimes are separated a little bit from each other are occurring at once. RSV – the most common of all viruses in young infants usually starts a little bit earlier in the year and peaks before flu, is occurring right now along with the influenza," says Dr. Keith English, Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Le Bonheur.

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The hospitals and clinics say they don't see their numbers slowing down anytime soon.

"Our numbers last week were actually higher than they have been the previous weeks. I think it's too early to tell if the flu has peaked yet or not," says English. Le Bonheur is seeing 300 children patients per day and admitting ten percent of them for the flu.

With no crystal ball to predict the peak or even end of this flu season, doctors are stressing one thing to everyone: "You can still get your flu vaccine; it's not too late. The vaccine does not cause the flu, you cannot get the flu from the vaccine," says Badura.

FIND A CLINIC IN SHELBY COUNTY

English says other respiratory viruses, such as RSV, are not prevented by the flu vaccine, adding, "If you get the flu vaccine and you get sick a few weeks later, it's probably not the flu; it's probably another respiratory virus."

When you do get the flu shot or mist, doctors say it takes between 10 and 14 days to fully kick in. So you'll still need to take preventative measures like washing your hands, eating healthy, exercising and getting lots of rest. The Shelby County Public Health Department says the recommended length for washing your hands is the equivalent of singing "Happy Birthday" twice.

If you do catch the flu, Badura says the first 48 hours are most important, saying, "Within the first 48 hours we do the testing and can get patients started on a medication – usually Tamiflu – and it helps the flue go away a little bit faster. You will still be contagious even after you're on the medication."

Badura says after receiving medication, stay home from work and keep sick children home from school so no one is spreading the virus further.

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