Flu season hitting Tri-Cities harder and earlier than expected

Flu season worsens

BRISTOL, Tenn. - Flu season is back with a vengeance; this year the influenza virus is hitting hard and fast.

We checked with the Cumberland Plateau Health District in Southwest Virginia and the Northeast Regional Office in Johnson City, Tennessee. Both health departments say flu cases in our region are widespread and on the rise.

Dakota Kline is spending $25 to avoid the aches and pains from the flu because it's a virus he can't afford to catch. "Flu season, I'm expecting a lot of sick people that don't get their flu shots and a lot of aching," he said.

Lately that seems to be the case. Emergency rooms in the Tri-Cities are flooded with people waiting to see a doctor. "Flu season has hit kind of hard and early this year," said Doctor Ken Turner at Bristol Regional Medical Center.

Dr. Turner says it takes just 24 hours after exposure for flu symptoms to pop up: a cough, sore throat, runny nose, but symptoms can be more severe. "You get significantly high fevers and horrible aches and pains with it. Sometimes symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea as well," added Doctor Turner.

One tool doctors use to fight the virus, Tamiflu, it helps you get better faster and symptoms won't be as bad. But that medicine is flying off the shelves at local pharmacies. "We are seeing Tamiflu being used for patients that are testing positive [for the flu] and then for other family members that may not test positive to help prevent them from getting the flu," said pharmacist Cathy Creger.

News 5 learned it's not too late to get the flu shot and vaccines are readily available, but it's best to get it before flu season gets worse. "A flu shot this year is good for a year, so once you get it, it takes about two weeks for it to start working," added Creger.

When it comes to the nasal mist form of the flu vaccine, the Cumberland Plateau Health District says supplies are running low simply because of a shorter expiration date, but they are expecting more supplies. Health officials in east Tennessee say some counties may be short on the nasal-mist vaccine but it's best to call and check on the availability.

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