GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - It's the start of flu season and health officials are strongly encouraging people to get a flu vaccination before they get walloped by the virus.
Nearly 1,000 Garden Park Medical Center employees and some contract workers have already received a flu shot to reduce the spread of influenza this year. Though it's still early in flu season, the hospital has already treated a patient with the flu.
"There was one positive test in the past days. But there's not a significant number in the community at this time," said Garden Park Medical Center Emergency Department Director Kevin Griffith.
Health workers said that's all the more reason to stay a good dose ahead of the virus.
"Given that this is the very beginning of the season, I think it's most important to get it now before it peaks and has major numbers in the community," said Griffith.
Those more vulnerable to the flu, like young children, are urged to get the flu vaccine.
"Elderly people are also very susceptible because their immune systems are down a lot of times and are not as efficient as a normal healthy adult. People with chronic health conditions," said Garden Park Medical Center Employee Health Nurse/Infection Preventionist Laura Travnicek.
Pregnant woman and those who work with the public are also considered more susceptible to contracting the virus.
"Last year's pediatric fatalities numbered 145. So there's 145 deaths and that's quite a bit when you think a lot of those could probably be prevented," said Griffith.
If you or your loved one can't or won't receive a flu vaccine, there are some measures you can take from passing or catching the flu.
"Hand-washing is the number one way to prevent the spread of infection. So good respiratory hygiene, use your Kleenexes, use them once, and throw them out. Sneeze into your elbow. Eat right, get plenty of sleep," added Travnicek.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu season runs October - May reaching its peak in December - February.