TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) -- This year's flu season isn't just taxing to those who find themselves infected; it's also a challenge for area hospitals.
"You can't predict when you're gonna have a flu season early or late. I think that's what happened to a lot of folks this year," Dr. Malinda Prewitt said. Prewitt serves as medical director of infection control at North Mississippi Medical Center. "They got caught up and the flu season was here, and they didn't have their vaccination."
NMMC faces the brunt of this impact in large part due to the number of counties the hospital serves.
"We've seen an increased number of cases of patients admitted with influenza," Prewitt said. "We've also had employees [admitted] as well, so we've had it impact everyone."
Experts stress every flu season is different. This year's actually started earlier than usual. However, officials at NMMC say they're confident new procedures in place will help prevent the spread of influenza.
Some of those changes include new visitor procedures for the hospital, limiting the number and minimum age of visitors.
Those who have flu-like symptoms are asked to leave the hospital and not return for seven days, unless they're patients, of course.
"If you are sick, you certainly need to see your health care provider, but you need to let them know that you're having flu-like symptoms, so they can put a mask on you or you can keep your face covered," Prewitt said.
What about the availability of vaccines?
District Health Officer Dr. Roma Taylor said even though flu cases are up statewide, the number of those who've gotten the vaccine is lower than last year.
"[It's] not as many as we'd like to have," Taylor said. "A person is contagious for about two days before they develop symptoms, and so they're spreading the disease when they don't even know they have it."
Taylor also cautions those who get the vaccine and expect to be able to fight off infections immediately; it takes two to three weeks before one's immune system is improved.