PARKERSBURG - Even with the sun shining brightly and daytime temperatures in the 70s, the dreaded flu season has appeared in the Mid-Ohio Valley.
"We have heard of people suffering flu symptoms in the area already," said Tonia Lang, clinical director with the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), timing the influenza season is difficult because the introduction and spread of viruses is "very unpredictable" and changes from season to season, similar to the strain of virus.
"The health department started giving flu shots on Sept. 1 both in our office and going into businesses who have invited us."
Traditionally, the flu season begins as early as October while influenza activity typically peaks in January or later, according to the CDC website.
"Just because the flu virus is going around now and early does not mean it will peak early," Lang said. "Everything about flu season is unpredictable."
Flu shots are typically available beginning in October to make sure that people have flu coverage when the season begins, but many pharmacies and municipalities advertised the vaccination as early as late August.
"So far this season, we have given 826 flu shots," Lang said of the local department. "That is a lot of vaccinations and we plan to give more."
Last year the department gave an estimated 6,500 influenza vaccinations throughout it's coverage region, which includes the city of Parkersburg as well as the counties of Wood, Calhoun, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane and Wirt.
"We expected to exceed last year's 6,500 doses this year," Lang said.
For those who have already experienced flu-like symptoms of sore throat, coughing, nasal drainage and fever, it is recommended you still get a flu shot.
"Even if you have already had a flu virus, you should still get the vaccine because it could keep you from contracting another flu," Lang said.
The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months and the nasal spray vaccine is recommended for adults under the age of 50 who have no underlying health problems.
While the health department has walk-in flu shot clinics from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily at its 211 Sixth St., offices, there will also be late clinics at the department from 3 to 6 p.m. on Thursday and Oct. 17.
For more information on the health department's flu shots, call 304-485-7374.