Alabama among states most effected by flu outbreakPublished 12:14am Wednesday, December 12, 2012
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alabama has been identified as one of eight states showing a widespread outbreak of the flu virus.
With this outbreak, several area schools have seen increased absences due to flu-like symptoms.
“With the weather going back and forth from cold to hot, we’ve been having a large amount of kids report absent,” said Mike Blair, Dallas County High School principal. “A lot of them have been out with the flu or stomach virus.”
A Morgan Academy faculty member said the highest number of absences for the school was Monday, but she expects that number to increase.
“The flu and stomach virus have hit us hard,” the faculty member said. “We had 18 absent Friday and 30 [Monday].”
Merrill South, director of community relations at Vaughan Regional Medical Center, said the hospital has seen several patients with a flu-like virus in recent weeks.
“Flu season has presented itself nearly a month ahead of what we saw in 2011,” South said.
For the Selma-Dallas County area, the 2011 flu season began the last week of December, peaked in the middle of February and ended the last week of March. With the flu presenting earlier than expected, South said she expects flu season to last longer and advised that all residents receive a flu vaccination if they haven’t already.
Other states showing high incidences of the flu virus according to the CDC include: Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and Alaska.
Dr. Sais Namburu of Selma Urgent Care said he’s seen several cases of influenza A, or the H3N2 virus, recently.
“There have been a lot of cases in Alabama and it will probably pick up once the cold weather hits,” Namburu said. “We are seeing anywhere from six to 10 people per day come in with flu symptoms.”
According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, flu season usually begins after Christmas, but activity began as early as Nov. 1 this year.
“We’ve already hit high activity in the past week,” said Dr. Mary McIntyre, state health officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health. “It’s come very early this year.”
Although Alabama and other southern states like Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas have seen high activity in recent weeks, McIntyre said this doesn’t mean the virus won’t spread elsewhere.
“We’re trying to advise people everywhere if they haven’t received the flu shot to get one because you can reduce the severity of the illness and prevent it from spreading,” McIntyre said.
The flu can also manifest itself in several ways, McIntyre said, including gastrointestinal infections, or more commonly known as the stomach bug.
According to the CDC, common flu symptoms include aches, chest discomfort, chills, fatigue, sore throat and fever.
“If you’re showing any of these symptoms, It’s wise not to go to school or work because you put others at risk for catching the flu,” McIntyre said.
For more information on the flu and ways to prevent it, visit cdc.org or adph.org.