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Flu hits Borderland early, but CDC not actively tracking those cases
By: Melissa Gundersen
EL PASO, Texas -- The flu is hitting the Borderland early this year. As doctors start seeing their first few cases, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention won't be tracking them like normal.
Searching the CDC website for flu activity will prompt this message: "Due to the lapse in government funding regular updates to the CDC Influenza website, including the weekly 'FluView' ... will not be possible."
It's worrying a lot of doctors across the nation because the FluView report helps them identify and treat flu cases.
"It just more useful for people coming in with flu symptoms to think flu's been identified in your area and you're either likely or not likely to have it," said Dr. Mitchell Farrell, owner of Summit Urgent Care Center.
Farrell said it's not as much of a problem in the Borderland, however, since he's already diagnosed 15 cases this month and knows flu is active.
The flu is making an early appearance.
"Usually starts in November, December, then peaks in January, February, then trails off in March," said Farrell.
Farrell said there's no particular reason for the early arrival, but people need to start preparing before they come down with a fever, sore throat, cough and other flu symptoms.
"The CDC recommends a vaccine for everyone over the age of 6 months, said Farrell.
Some people hold off getting their flu shot this early, questioning if they'll be protected for the whole season. According to Farrell, however, there's nothing to worry about.
"They say it lasts about a season. So your antibodies are there for at least 6 months, sometimes up to a year," said Farrell.
Just because El Paso has the upper hand this year, CDC's surveillance program suspension could have repercussions on the entire nation next year.
The "FluView" also tracks what strains of the flu are circulating, which will be protected under next year's vaccine.
"They try to cover everything they think is likely to be in the communities," said Farrell.
Farrell said as long as a new strain doesn't vary too greatly from what the vaccine already covers, people should be protected from the flu by the vaccine.
According to the CDC website, they will begin posting updates again once the government shutdown is lifted.