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Flu hits area with force

NATCHEZ — More and more members of the Miss-Lou community are waking up with fever, severe aches, headache, dry cough and sore throat these days. Flu season is here, and it’s here with a vengeance.

While state health officials don’t officially track flu cases, those at local doctor’s offices say they are seeing a lot of cases this year.

Donna Dewitt, assistant office manager at Internal Medicine Associates, said the main and after-hours clinics there are seeing a combined 15-18 flu cases a day.

“We are seeing quite a lot of (flu patients),” she said. “It is one of those illnesses that come around this time of year, and a lot of people are not getting their flu shot this year.”

With those doctor’s visits come prescriptions for flu medication, and pharmacist Marry McManus with Ernst Pharmacy said he has heard of other pharmacies running out of flu medication and not being able to get more.

“We are filling quite a few prescriptions (for flu medication) over the last few days,” he said. “We have been fortunate that we have been able to get it, but everybody is having problems at some point because you just can’t get how much you need — it is getting to the point where it is getting harder to get. We order it every day.”

Concordia Parish Superintendent of Schools Paul Nelson said the parish schools have not seen flu cases in what he would consider to be epidemic proportions, but some schools have been hard hit.

“We have had a couple of days where we had schools have up to 50 kids out with the flu,” Nelson said. “We have seen some attendance issues at a couple of different schools, not only at the lower elementaries where that sort of thing is expected, but at the high schools as well.”

The school district has been receiving a number of calls from parents concerned their students were going to miss mid-term tests because of illness, he said.

And while it may be too late for many to get a flu shot, Dewitt said flu season can last into February.

“The doctors highly recommend that (patients) get a flu shot,” she said. “Even if you get the flu and it is not the strain that the flu shot covers, you have got something that might help you.”

In addition to getting a flu shot, the Mississippi State Department of Health recommends washing your hands often, avoiding touching your eyes and mouth and keeping distance from people who are sick as preventative measures against the flu.

Those who are sick are encouraged to stay home to avoid spreading the flu to others.