October 30, 2013 9:59:57 AM
Flu season has officially arrived in Mississippi.
The Mississippi State Department of Health released a press release Tuesday confirming the first cases of influenza in the state. While the number of cases is unknown, MSDH encouraged Mississippians to get the flu shot to keep the disease from spreading.
"We are now starting to see confirmed flu cases in Mississippi. This not only indicates that flu has been detected in the state, but it also serves as a reminder that now is the best time to get your flu shot," state health officer Dr. Mary Currier said in the release.
Typically, the height of the flu season in Mississippi comes in January, but it is not uncommon for cases to be reported as early as October.
MSDH said influenza A or 2009 H1N1, the strand of flu that has been confirmed in Mississippi, is preventable by the current flu vaccine.
Pharmacist B.J. Cougle said he has given more than 150 flu shots already. Cougle, with BJ's Family Pharmacy in Starkville, said his customers prefer the shot to the mist.
"Generally, as a rule, everyone is going with the shot," Cougle. "We've had a few requests for the mist but by and large we've had the most requests for the shot."
Cougle said there is multiple reasons to vaccinate yourself against the flu.
"Cost-wise, it's so much cheaper to get the flu shot than to be treated for the flu," Cougle said. He added that some people will avoid getting the flu shot because they believe it will make them sick. That is inaccurate, Cougle said.
"There's always this big misnomer, an old wives' tale, that you can get the flu from the flu shot. It's a widely accepted belief that is completely ridiculous. You cannot get the flu from the flu shot. It's impossible."
While the flu shot may cause a mild fever or inflammation, Cougle said the side effects are temporary and should subside within a day or so.
The flu shot can take one-to-two weeks to go into full effect and it is possible for people to contract the flu in that time frame, Cougle said.
The MSDH encouraged people to exercise, wash hands often and use other common-sense precautions.
"While the flu shot is the best protection, basic infection control measures can also reduce the spread of flu," the release stated. "These measures include covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing, staying at home when you or your children are sick, and washing your hands frequently."
Cougle said getting the flu shot or the mist is an important way to not only protect yourself, but others.
"It really is important that everyone get the flu shot," he said. "You can't overemphasize how important it is for the general population."
Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @FowlerSarah
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