AMORY, Miss. (WTVA) -- The federal government reports the flu season this year has come early and is already infecting people in our part of the country.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the five states that are hardest hit right now are Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. Georgia and Missouri are also seeing moderate flu case increases.
However, there's good news when it comes to fighting the virus.
"We re seeing that the kind of flu that is circulating in Mississippi and causing illness is a match to the type of flu that the vaccine protects against. So we are seeing some influenza A and some influenza B in Mississippi. But as far as we know at this point from the information that we have, it is a match to what's in the vaccine, is considered protective at this point," said Dr. Paul Byers, Mississippi's deputy epidemiologist.
That's why one area health professional says now is the time to get the vaccine as it will require time to become effective.
"The only problem with the flu shot, as we are already seeing the flu, is it takes about two weeks to get a level built up to where you have any kind of immunity. So anybody who has not had their flu shot yet, they do need to go ahead and get that," said Teresa Stanford, a nurse practitioner at Gilmore Memorial Regional Medical Center in Amory.
She agrees with state and national officials that the flu season is already underway this year and has the possibility of being severe.
According to one pharmacy in Amory, customers have already started coming in asking for flu medication.
And the pharmacist says that is a little bit unusual.
"We have had an increase of flu patients coming in over the last couple of weeks. But doctors seem to be addressing it very well with the proper anti-virals, and we've been treating other symptoms either with over-the-counter cough and cold remedies or whatever the doctor prescribes," said pharmacist Justin Clarke.
All three professionals confirm that the flu shot does not cause the flu.
Health officials say there are very few people who might be allergic to the flu vaccine.
They add it's always best to check with a licensed physician.