Doctor issues warning about 2018-2019 flu season

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CLEVELAND -- On the heels of one of the longest and most deadly flu seasons in recent memory, one Cleveland Clinic doctor is urging high-risk patients to get vaccinated ahead of October when cases begin to rise in Ohio.

"The more I work with influenza, the less I feel like I know what the flu is going to do," said Dr. Frank Esper, the assistant professor of Pediatric Infectious Disease at the Cleveland Clinic. "I always keep a very healthy fear in me."

As the new flu season gets underway, patients and experts can't help but wonder if this season will be a repeat of the last.

"The problem is we don't know; every year is its own beast," explained Dr. Esper.

According to the CDC, 180 children died from the flu and about 30,500 people were hospitalized nationwide last season; it's a fact that still lingers in the minds of parents.

"We didn't get any last year but we were just talking about it the other day," said Mary Merryman, the mother of a young child. "Considering it this year because I've heard there are cases of the flu already."

It is recommended everyone six months and older get vaccinated. However, the clinic says after vaccination, it can take up to two to four weeks for the antibodies that fight against the flu virus infection to develop within the body.

"The one thing we learned last year that the CDC really came out on us for is that we weren't giving enough medications to fight influenza," said Dr. Esper. "We were like, 'Oh you got flu, oh well, just tough it out.' We were holding back on giving Tamiflu to individuals."

The conservative approach to prescribing flu medications combined with the shortage of the generic liquid Tamiflu proved worrisome for many people last flu season. However, this season, Dr. Esper says expect a change.

"We're going to get you medications soon so that we're not dealing with influenza in the hospital. We're nipping it in the bud right when you get exposed."

In a statement, the Ohio Pharmacists Association said, "We are not hearing of any shortage so far. That really will depend on the severity of the flu season, and it probably would only happen if certain communities have a high number of cases."

It's news that parents seem to welcome as the flu season begins.

"I would play it safe and get it done; it's not worth the risk," said Merryman.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the flu nasal spray will be an option for flu prevention after being off the market for two years. To find a flu vaccination clinic near you, CLICK HERE.

**More stories on the flu, here**

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