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The bug is back: Flu season hits county

Much like the rest of Georgia, the flu bug is already biting in McDuffie County.

Local doctors and hospital officials said that over the last two weeks, they've seen more and more patients with flu-like symptoms during a flu season that's gotten off to a quick start according to local and state health officials.

"The flu season has hit earlier, and it's prompted a lot more people than usual to ask for the vaccine and seek it out," said Infection Control/Associate Health Coordinator for the McDuffie Regional Medical Center Cindy Prosnak.

Some local doctors said that they didn't typically begin seeing flu patients until January or even early February.

"We always run out of the vaccine, but what's not normal is that we run out and a lot more people still want it," said McDuffie County physician Frank Powell. "It seems like a lot more people are looking for it this year than in previous years."

In fact, local demand has been so high for the vaccine, that East Central Health District officials are reporting that there are no more flu shots left in the surrounding 12 counties.

However, Thomson doctor Kelli Carter said that there may still be a small number of shots available from local physicians, and that the best thing to do would be to call around and try to locate them.

Unfortunately, she didn't expect any flu vaccine to last much longer.

"This is to me probably the worst year for the flu I've seen in the last 11 to 12 years. I don't remember it being this bad," she said.

Late last week McDuffie Regional Medical center restricted patient visitation to only persons 18 years and over. Hospital CEO Doug Keir said the move is one that is made every year but never this early.

"We took this as a precautionary step, not that there's something here necessarily right this minute. Certainly as the Christmas season progresses, we want to stem that visitor situation until we can ascertain from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and others that the danger period has passed," he said, adding that it could be as early as 90 to 120 days when the restriction is lifted.

Local and state health officials are working to obtain more of the killed virus, which is what's found in a flu shot. There is, however, a vaccine with a live virus known as the Flu Mist, but it's only available to healthy patients and is costly.

Emmitt Walker, chief spokesperson for the East Central Health District, said that 200 flu shots were obtained for the 13-county district earlier this week and would most likely be earmarked for high-risk patients, such as young children and the elderly.

"We really don't know how much McDuffie County may be getting versus another county, but we do know it will be a small amount regardless," he said.

Mr. Walker also said that the United States is in the process of obtaining additional dosages of the flu vaccine, but that the number will probably be very small by the time it reaches McDuffie County.

In the meantime, Ms. Prosnak said that there are a number of precautions people can take to avoid getting the flu.

"One of the biggest things is hand washing -- we cannot stress hand washing enough. That's the main way it spreads. People cough and sneeze, that gets it spread around. It's important to just really practice good hygiene and avoid big crowds," she said.



Web posted on Wednesday, December 17, 2003











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