Flu season off to earliest start in a decade, doctors urge you - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Flu season off to earliest start in decade

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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The flu season is off to its earliest start in almost a decade, now health officials are warning this flu season could be a bad one.

"We started seeing flu cases as many as three to four weeks ago," said Dr. Dennis Rhoades with Doctors Care. "Over the last week to 10 days the number of cases has jumped tremendously."

Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said more than a third of Americans have received the flu vaccine. Now there are only eight million vaccinations left from production this year.

"Of the 120 million vaccines that they manufactured 112 have already been given out," Dr. Rhoades. "We are getting to the point where it's going to be harder and harder to get so the sooner you get it the better."

Dr. Rhoades said you might think you can avoid coming down with the virus just by sanitizing every once and a while. However, he said it is in your every day simple tasks where you could be at risk of catching the flu, like entering your debit card pin number in the checkout line.

"I myself don't use the pen to touch the pad," Dr. Rhoades said. "I'll touch the pad with my finger, and then I'll sanitize my hand afterwards."

Dr. Rhoades said other common places could be in the grocery store picking out fresh fruit, or at the gas station paying at the pump.

"We can't be paranoid about touching things we just have to be aware of what we are touching," Dr. Rhoades said.

Health officials with the CDC reported the last time a typical flu season started this early was the winter of 2003-2004.

"We see the peak of the season from the end of February to the beginning of March," Dr. Rhoades cautioned. "The flu season may last all the way to the beginning of April so that's why we definitely recommend getting the flu shot."

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