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Flu Season Begins in Western Massachusetts

Health-Flu3SPRINGFIELD/WESTFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — Winter is here, and that means so is the flu.

According the the Center for Disease Control’s “FluView” report, the disease is now widespread in Massachusetts, turning up in most areas of the state.

Family Medical Center in Springfield and Noble Express Care in Westfield both report a handful of cases of the flu in recent weeks.

Typically, people think of the flu as something very dangerous of the elderly, but that could change this year.

“The flu strain that has been most prevalent so far has been H1N1. Young adults, middle aged adults, tend to get much sicker if they get H1N1. They need to be a little more aware than they might otherwise be.” said Dr. Ira Helfand, of the Family Medical Center in Springfield.

Symptoms of the flu, like coughing and body aches, can mirror other illnesses, but the disease does have some telltale signs.

“Usually with the flu, you have a high fever, where with some other bacterial infections you may not have as high of a fever, and usually the patient looks sick,” explained Troy Chilson, a physician’s assistant at Noble Express Care in Westfield.

If you’re concerned you may have the flu, it’s a good idea to call your doctor, or visit an urgent care center. Once you are there, they can take a small q-tip, they’ll place it inside your nose, and put it into a chemical test to determine whether or not you have the flu. In all, it takes about ten minutes.

“The sooner you come in, the better off you are, because we can treat you. And we can help protect your family members,” said Chilson.

Chilson says if you are diagnosed in the first 48 hours, you can take an antiviral medication, like Tamiflu, to suppress your symptoms. Your family can take it to keep them from getting sick, too.

“If you’re going to a party and you know you’re sick, don’t go,” notes Chilson.

And if you haven’t had the flu yet, there is something you can do to prevent it.

“This is something to take seriously and people who have not gotten vaccinated yet should absolutely get a flu shot,” said Helfhand.

The good news is this year’s vaccine does protect against H1N1.

There is no shortage of the flu vaccine yet this year.

It’s available through doctor’s offices, urgent care clinics, and even many pharmacies.

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