County health officials are siding with state officials, advising of another year of early onset flu season.
Where normal flu season peaks in mid-February, officials are saying this year flu season could peak as early as November or December. With this in mind, Dr. Ben Marcum at Stephenville Medical and Surgical Clinic said he is advising employees and patients to get their flu shots early.
"Yes, there is a concern that flu season will strike early," Marcum said. "When the clinic received flu shots in September, we started giving them to employees and patients here. There are still plenty available and we are advising everyone who is at risk to go ahead and get their shot soon."
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 73,000 specimens tested positive for the influenza A virus and influenza B virus from September 2012 to May 2013. And according to Marcum, at least two cases of influenza were positively identified in the Cross Timbers area in September.
The CDC advised that this season's vaccine includes an additional strain of influenza B that was widely seen in the infected population last year. Four strains of the flu are covered by the vaccine, including the influenza B strain.
Vaccines are widely available at area physician offices and pharmacies. Locally, residents can get their shots at Wal-Greens, H.E.B., CVS and SMSC. Marcum said SMSC is fully stocked with flu shots and residents are more than welcome to walk-in and get one.
Up to 220,000 people per year are hospitalized and an average of 24,000 patients die nationwide as a result of influenza, according to the CDC.
"The vaccine lasts from eight months to a year so residents can get the shot now and be reasonably protected through this time next year," Marcum said. "We are highly recommending women who are pregnant go ahead and get the shot as well. This way their babies, who cannot receive the shot for the first six months, will be protected as the pregnant mother passes on the vaccine to the baby she is carrying."