° empty

The flu business: Local businesses focus on treatment, prevention

Photo Illustration by Ben Hillyer

When the leaves start changing color, temperatures begin to drop and the days become shorter, it can mean much is on the way, including the beginning of the cold and flu season.

Doctor’s offices get busier and the lines at the pharmacy counter get longer.

Debra Probst, office manager for Internal Medicine Associates, said business always picks up around this time of year.

“We start to see more patients once the weather starts changing,” Probst said. “Right now, it’s too early to determine how bad (flu) the season will be.”

But Probst said many patients don’t take that chance and are coming in now for flu shots.

“Before places like Walgreens started giving shots, we would order 1,000 and then have to reorder,” Probst said. “Now we order around 600.”

Probst said this year’s flu shot is good for a year, unlike previous years when it was only good for three to four months.

Flu shots at Internal Medicine Associates cost $60 to $65, but Probst said almost all insurance companies cover the costs of the shot.

Bill Ernst of Ernst Pharmacy said some years the flu vaccine supply is low, but not this year.

“The vaccine has been available to most places,” Ernst said. “Hopefully with more places giving the vaccine, it will decrease the flu.”

Natchez After Hours Clinic Office Manager Melissa Serio said the clinic stopped giving the flu vaccine because it’s readily available elsewhere.

“It’s so easy to get the flu vaccine now,” Serio said. “People used to only be able to get the shot at a doctor’s office or medical clinic.”

But Serio said the clinic’s traffic always picks up around this time year due to illness and some flu cases have already been identified.

“We see a lot more patients with the beginning of school, the weather changing and with people traveling this time of year,” Serio said. “Even with all the precautions people take, germs find a way.”

Serio said her medical team always advises patients to get the flu shot by November.

“Last year we didn’t see much of the flu,” Serio said. “Even with us already seeing some cases, it’s hard to tell if it will be a bad season.”

Director of communications for the Mississippi State Department of Health Liz Charlot said flu cases are not tracked by the state. She said the flu season doesn’t really hit Mississippi until December.

“Typically the flu season is sporadic,” Charlot said. “Last time, February and March were the heavier months.”

Charlot said the local health departments offer the vaccine for $10 for children 8 months old through 18, $25 for adults and a high dosage vaccine for seniors 55 and older for $50, which will be covered by either Medicare or Medicaid.

“They just have to bring in their cards,” Charlot said. “We are just one of many different providers for the flu vaccine. We want to encourage everyone to get it.”