Flu cases continue to rise in state

Published 12:17 pm Saturday, December 30, 2017

By ADAM DODSON | Times-Journal

The flu season is in full swing and the state continues to see an increase in the number of cases.

The Alabama Department of Public Health recently released information regarding a statewide increase of flu cases that come from multiple strains.

The ADPH recommends that all Alabama residents aged 6 months or older should receive a vaccine to further prevent the spread of the flu and to protect those who have been unaffected.

The vaccine they recommend, known as the “quadrivalent vaccine,” prevents against 4 different types of flu strains and is the only vaccine that prevents against the Type B/Yamagata strain, which is one of the illnesses currently found throughout Alabama.

“This increased rate of flu activity is concerning because influenza can be a serious disease for anyone, including children, pregnant women and previously healthy young adults,” Dr. Burnestine Taylor, Medical Officer for Disease Control and Prevention for ADPH, said. “It’s not too late to get a flu shot to protect against this serious disease.”

Dr. Taylor emphasizes that it is not too late to receive a vaccination. According to the Center for Disease Control, the busiest of the “flu season months” has not even occurred yet. The flu season can run from October to as late as May, with February being the peak month of those who catch the flu, followed by December.

Although there has been an increase in cases across Alabama, Dr. Taylor says this is nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, she says that it has been abnormal how little cases there have been during flu season up to this point. Dr. Sai Namburu, who has an office in Selma and two in Montgomery, says that the flu spikes the past three years have been minuscule compared to the flu outbreak of 2014.

According to the ADPH, the flu strains going around are very contagious. Flu symptoms include, but are not limited to:

•Fever

•Sore throat and/or coughing

•Fatigue and/or muscle aches

•Headaches

•Runny nose/stuffy nose

While these are all symptoms of the flu, not all have to be present for you to have the disease. Some of the more obvious signs of illness, such as fever or heavy coughing, may not be present in all flu victims.

“The symptoms vary from patient to patient,” said Dr. Namburu. “Some patients will not have a fever but have the flu. Some patients will have terrible body aches.”

Those looking to be vaccinated can go to medical centers or pharmacies located throughout Selma. Vaccines usually take around 2 weeks to begin protecting the individuals. The ADPH also recommends to all doctors that patients who are hospitalized or high-risk be treated with a neuraminidase inhibitor antiviral.

In an attempt to stop the annual spreading of the flu and to promote proactive vaccinations, the ADPH is beginning their new year with the “Start 2018 on the Right Foot Campaign.” This program will aim at educating the Alabama public on the health benefits of vaccines and also the risks associated with going unchecked for contagious diseases.

In order to help prevent the spread of the flu, individuals are encouraged to become vaccinated as well as:

•Staying at home if contagious

•Covering mouth and nose when coughing/sneezing

•Frequently washing hands with hand soap or sanitizer

Health care workers, school teachers, individuals with diabetes or with cancer are at an even higher risk of catching the flu. Health care workers and teachers are both in high-contact areas with potentially affected people while those with diabetes or cancer are more susceptible to the illness.

Alabama residents who gauged their health with a quick or rapid flu test may still have the flu regardless of what the test results say. Sometimes, the vaccine has not kicked in yet or the test results were inaccurate. Anyone interested in receiving more information on the spreading of influenza or the application of vaccines may contact the Immunization Division of the Alabama Department of Public Health at (334) 206-5023 or visit their website at alabamapublichealth.com/immunization.