Flu unusually widespread for so early in the season

Published 3:35 am Wednesday, December 31, 2003

By By ANNA M. LEE Assistant Editor
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), flu activity had reached widespread levels in Alabama and 44 other states last week.
According to St. Onge, incidents of flu in Escambia County are beginning earlier this year than usual, explaining the high number of cases this December.
Though the flu is widespread now, the number of cases will not reach its peak in Escambia County until January or February.
If you are not yet vaccinated against the flu, St. Onge recommends getting the vaccine by February.
The vaccine is 84 percent effective in preventing the flu.
The CDC determines how much vaccine is needed in each area and distributes it accordingly.
This year, the Escambia County Health Department administered about 3,500 flu vaccines before running out in December.
The health department has requested more vaccines and should know next week how many vaccines, if any, will be available at the beginning of the year, St. Onge said.
Now that all of the vaccine that was produced for this area is depleted, any additional vaccine will come from Europe.
Karen Flanagan, pediatrician with the Brewton Medical Center, has seen what she calls an "epidemic" number of people infected with flu and flu-like illnesses lately.
While Flanagan's office did not have a shortage of the vaccine, they did run out of vaccine a few weeks ago, but not before administering about 3,000 vaccinations.
Flanagan reported that two-thirds of her hospitalized patients had the flu or flu-like illnesses the week of Christmas.
Colds, asthma and respiratory infections other than the flu can sometimes be mistaken for the flu.
According to the CDC, the following symptoms are more common with flu than with a cold: fever, severe headache, severe muscle aches, extreme tiredness and severe cough.
To avoid illness this flu season, the CDC recommends the following: get the flu vaccination, avoid contact with people who are sick, wash your hands often, and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

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