Influenza ... it's early and in full swing.
Local doctors and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have seen an earlier onset of the influenza virus starting in November and December.
Pediatrician, Dr. Cristal Kirby, at Minden Pediatrics said, "the issue is that this is a horrible flu season."
"We average as a whole five to eight positives a day," Kirby said.
Flu, as it is commonly called, is caused by the influenza virus that infects the respiratory tract. It is spread from person to person in respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes.
The flu season occurs in the fall and winter but can be from late November to March.
Recommendations to help prevent the spread of the flu include getting the vaccination yearly, frequent hand washing throughout the day, avoiding sick people and staying home if you have the flu.
"We recommend all children, including adults, ages six months and up to get their flu shot," Kirby said.
Protection from influenza B viruses, influenza A (H1N1) viruses and influenza A are covered by the vaccination and are covered by most insurances.
Costs at a doctor's office for the flu vaccination can range from $20 to $30 if someone does not have insurance. At local health units, the cost can either be nothing or $10, according to Medicare, Medicaid or self-pay.
According to CDC, symptoms of the flu can cause mild to severe illness and at times lead to death. They include nausea, vomiting, fever (low or high), body aches, cough and headaches.
Clearing misconceptions, Dr. Jennifer Lee, of Lee Family Medicine Clinic said, "people are not able to get the flu from the flu shot."
"Do not be afraid of the shot," she said.
Patients do not have to experience all of the symptoms to have the flu virus. A flu test is recommended to determine if a patient has the flu.
Healthy adults may be able to infect others starting at day one before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than seven days. An infected person may be able to pass on the flu before they know they are sick.
Complications of the flu include bacterial pneumonia, dehydration, ear and sinus infections in children and worsening of chronic medical condition, such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes.
Pregnant women, people 65 years and older, and those that have asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease are at a higher risk for developing complications of the flu.
As of the last report according to Fluview (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly), December 29, 2012, the flu is widespread in the United States, including Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi.
The flu mist (vaccination) is also available to give and is what is given if on Medicaid.
The vaccination is still available at local doctors' offices, health units and pharmacies.
Tracey Walker, LPN at Dr. Elizabeth Phillips/ Phillips Medical Corp., said if reordered, it comes in "usually overnight." So far, a shortage of the vaccination has not been reported.
Contact a doctor, Webster Parish Health Unit at 371-3030 or a local pharmacy for more information concerning flu shots.