SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The flu has claimed hundreds of lives across the United States, including 53 children, and doctor’s say we’re not even in the peak of flu season yet.
“What we’re looking at is one of the heaviest, earliest flu seasons we’ve seen in Savannah in over a decade,” said Dr. Ben Spitalnick with the Pediatric Associates of Savannah.
In Georgia, 51 people have died from the flu since January 1, 2018 and 84 have died in South Carolina.
“Most deaths, from the flu, are secondary respiratory infections that come with it,” Spitalnick said.
So why are so many getting the flu?
Spitalnick says, “This specific flu is hitting very hard, in particular because the flu vaccine isn’t as effective as it has been in some seasons.”
In the Lowcountry, the Beaufort County School district has had 475 flu cases since the start of school January 8th, 75 confirmed Tuesday.
In Chatham County, they don’t keep an exact flu count, but they’ve had more than 2,500 absences within 22 school days.
“We open up earlier every day for our walk in clinic, we stay at night after we usually close to see more patients, we’re open Saturday and Sunday,” Spitalnick said, “This time of year, our patients, we’re doing everything we can to keep them out of the urgent cares, and especially keep them out of the emergency rooms.”
While this year’s vaccine isn’t as effective, it’s the best way to stay out of the hospital.
“In Georgia, about 40 percent of kids get the flu vaccine. In the hospitals, over 85 percent of the kids admitted for the flu, are the ones who didn’t get the vaccine,” Spitalnick said.
One of the most common questions – can you get it twice?
“There is flu type A and flu type B, really, there are multiple strains of A, multiple strains of B,” Ben Spitalnick said, “Many could circulate throughout the season, so you could catch the flu twice, you could catch the flu more than twice within the same season.”
So if you’ve gotten the flu, but not a flu shot, should you still get one?
“The answer is yes,” Spitalnick said, “The flu shot protects against four strains and as the season goes through March and April, we will see more strains emerge.”
And don’t worry, you can’t get the flu from a flu shot.
Spitalnick says it’s worth it, “The flu is the number one. single, vaccine preventable cause of death in the United States,” he said.
Health departments in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty and McIntosh counties are offering free flu vaccines for those without insurance.
On Friday, Feb. 9, shots will be given from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. to those ages 3 and older while supplies last.
Flu shots are also offered at places like CVS clinics, Targets, Walgreens, Kroger, and Publix
To find where you can get a flu shot near you, click here.