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Doctors offer advice in the heat of flu season in the Mid-South

“Just actually knowing when that was going to happen was the question mark, and it looks like it’s here."

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Flu season is here and with a vengeance with new cases popping up all over the Mid-South in greater number than in recent years. 

According to the Center for Disease Control, Tennessee has some of the worst flu-like illness rates in America. It joins Alabama, South Carolina and Washington, D.C. in the highest category. Now doctors are asking everyone to be prepared.

“Just actually knowing when that was going to happen was the question mark, and it looks like it’s here,” says Dr. Nick Hysmith, Medical Director of Infection Prevention at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. 

Just in between October 23rd and 29th, Tennessee saw more than 3,000 cases of flu-like illnesses.  In Shelby County, the Health Department says emergency visits for the flu account for almost 10% of total visits to the ER.  Cases are mainly found in the 5-24 age groups followed by the 0-4 age group.

“We started to see an increase in the last two to three weeks, with a real jump in the last week,” says Dr. Hysmith.

Professionals blame the rising flu numbers on the fact many people area all more relaxed when taking COVID-19 precautions.  According to the CDC, in 2020, America saw some of its lowest flu rates when compared to other years.

“We saw a little blip but we didn’t see too much of that. The first winter when we were in COVID a lot of the schools were still virtual, we were still social distancing, we were still wearing masks,” says Dr. Hysmith.

However officials say there is a lucky break. Flu season and RSV season don’t appear to be overlapping this year, which has helped keep places like Le Bonheur out of bed shortages.

“We’re really not at that point where we are at a critical bed shortage at this point,” says Dr. Hysmith.

Flu season is not over, as cases are still expected to rise in the coming weeks.

“We should expect probably to see the peak within the next few weeks I would hope and then it should drop off pretty quickly.  Based on what we’re seeing, we’re still going to be pretty high levels around the Thanksgiving holidays unfortunately,” says Dr. Hysmith.

One of the best things to do according to doctors is to get the flu vaccine sooner rather than later.

“It usually takes two to three weeks to build up that immunity, so get it, get it now, hopefully that will help prevent getting the flu in a few weeks,” says Dr. Hysmith.

People can also use similar precautions for COVID-19, wear a mask, socially distance and stay at home if you feel sick.

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