Mississippi's rate of flu cases is double the national average, according to the University of Mississippi Medical Center. As MPB's Desare Frazier reports, doctors are urging people to get the flu vaccine.
Dr. Joyce Olutade says since September 1, 699 children and adults have tested positive for the flu at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The professor of family medicine says the national average for flu cases at this time of year is 2 percent. Mississippi's rate is 5.5 percent. Olutade says children age 5 and under, senior citizens 65 or older and those with depressed immune systems can suffer serious complications.
"People need to take it seriously. Unfortunately there are so many myths about the flu vaccine, however the flu vaccine is the only proven method for preventing the flu," said Olutade.
Flu symptoms include a sore throat, muscle aches, fever and cough. Olutade says people don't get the flu from the shot. But some may experience flu-like symptoms. She stresses that's not the infection and over the counter medicine can reduce discomfort. Dr. Paul Byer's, the State Epidemiologist, says people who think they have the flu shouldn't go to work.
"Because that's one of the best ways to transmit it to your co-workers. The same goes for if you're a parent don't let your children go to school. Schools are great incubators and children share everything," said Byers.
Byers say the flu shot is recommended for those 6 months and older. It takes two weeks for the antibodies to ward off the infection. He adds frequent hand washing and covering coughs reduces spreading the virus. State health department clinics offer flu shots for children only. Adults can go to their doctor or local pharmacy for the vaccine, which is covered by health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.