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Early flu cases have doctors concerned

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Confirmed flu cases are beginning to show up in Middle Tennessee. Dr. William Schaffner, chair of Vanderbilt University's infectious disease department, is concerned the flu may get an early running start and continue to spread rapidly from there.

"When it shows up in September, we wonder whether it's a harbinger of a more serious influenza season to come," said Schaffner.

The flu season usually begins in late October or early November.

"If it begins early, like we are seeing, it usually means that it's ready to be transmitted in the population," said Schaffner.

Schaffner told Channel 4 News everyone should get a flu shot.

"If your older than 6 months of age, you should get vaccinated, all of us," said Schaffner.

This year the flu vaccines are different. They have more of a punch and fight off multiple strains of the flu.

"The traditional vaccine protects against three different influenza strains. The nasal spray offers protection against four strains of influenza. The vaccine for seniors is even more effective. It looks like the high dose vaccine offers about 24 percent better protection for folks age 65 and older," said Schaffner.

If there ever was an overwhelming reason to get a flu shot, it's this.

"It will prevent many infections and turn more serious infections into milder ones, preventing the complication of hospitalization and death," said Schaffner.

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