Across the nation, Georgia and Bulloch County, the flu season that began last October has seen one of the worst outbreaks in decades and pharmacist Len McCook and his wife Janie, who own McCook’s Pharmacy, can personally attest to the rise in flu sufferers.
“Since we opened the pharmacy in 2005, it is by far the worst season we’ve experienced,” Len McCook said. “We’ve already had 10 times the number of people filling prescriptions, receiving flu shots or seeking some sort of relief from flu symptoms than we’ve ever seen before.”
The flu usually peaks in February. This season had an early start, and health officials initially thought it would also have an early peak. But so far it hasn't worked out that way.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta confirmed that the 2017-18 flu season has yet to hit its peak and that five months into the season, flu cases still are on the rise.
"There may be many weeks left for this season," said the CDC's Dr. Dan Jernigan.
And that means if you haven’t received a flu shot yet, it’s not too late to get one.
“The first thing I recommend to help in prevention of the flu is a vaccine,” McCook said. “While there’s no guarantee a vaccine will prevent you coming down with the flu, it still gives you the best chance to avoid getting sick if you come in contact with the flu virus.”
McCook said his pharmacy has vaccines in stock and his staff can inoculate anyone over the age of 4. In the U.S., annual flu shots are recommended for everyone age 6 months or older. This season's vaccine targets the strains that are making Americans sick, including the key H3N2 virus. How well it worked won't be known until later this month.
Also, in order to prevent the flu, Janie McCook recommends washing your hands several times a day, especially after contact with anyone, and, if possible, avoid large crowds in enclosed spaces.
However, no matter how many precautions you take or how many times a day you wash your hands, you may get the flu anyway. And this year, Len McCook said, that’s more likely than ever.
One of the surest signs, McCook said, that lets you know you probably have the flu as opposed to a cold is the rapid onset of symptoms.
“If you go from feeling OK to feeling badly quickly, that’s a strong signal it’s the flu,” he said. “Colds usually take a day or two to really manifest symptoms. If you get a fever spike and your aches and chills feel much worse than usual, those are more flu-like symptoms.”
If you have these symptoms, McCook recommends you see a doctor to get an accurate diagnosis. And if you do have the flu, more than likely, you will receive a prescription for Tamiflu or a similar generic drug.
“Tamiflu is by far the most common prescription for people with the flu,” McCook said. “The manufacturer had some initial issues with keeping enough in stock, but those issues are resolved and we have enough to serve flu sufferers in Statesboro and Bulloch County.”
While some areas of the country are having a tough time getting flu-fighting medication, a CDC official said there is no nationwide shortage.
“If you need a flu shot, we can help,” Len McCook said. “If you need a prescription to deal with the flu or medications and other remedies to ease your symptoms, we can help. Let’s just all hope this flu season comes to an end quickly.”
This article is sponsored by McCook’s Pharmacy, which is located on Highway 80 East, across from Fordham’s Farmhouse restaurant. You can reach McCook’s by calling (912) 764-2223 or their website www.mccookspharmacy.com.