Flu symptoms grip state citizens for weeks

Published 5:11 pm Thursday, January 10, 2013

Alabama State Department of Health officials have said this season’s round of flu-like illnesses has had a grip across the state for the last seven weeks — a scene similar to ones appearing across many states in the country.

Of the 100 samples tested for the week ending Jan. 5, 53 percent were positive for influenza with 46 samples were positive for influenza A, H3; 2 were positive for influenza A, 2009 H1; and 5 were positive for influenza B.

Officials are also saying,hospital leaders across the state say they are seeing a significant number of flu patients.

Email newsletter signup

Flu is a very contagious respiratory illness, and the CDC emphasizes that the best way to prevent it is to get vaccinated each year. Influenza vaccination is especially recommended for the following people who are at higher risk of influenza-related complications.

·        All children between 6 months and 5 years of age, but especially those between 6 months and 2 years of age

·        Adults 50 years of age and older, especially those 65 years and older

·        Adults and children with chronic disorders

·        Pregnant women

·        Children aged 6 months through 18 years on chronic aspirin therapy

·        Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities

·        Persons who are immunosuppressed

·        Health care workers

·        Out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children less than age 5 and adults 50 years of age and older

·        People who are morbidly obese (those with a body mass index, or BMI, of 40 or greater)

Anyone else who wishes to reduce the chance of contracting influenza should get a flu shot. A person with the flu may have some or all of these symptoms: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches and often extreme fatigue.

The public is also reminded of the importance of following basic infection control measures to help prevent the spread of the flu. These include covering the mouth and nose with a tissue or cloth when coughing and sneezing, washing hands frequently, and staying at home when sick.

Dr. Donald Williamson, state health officer, said having health issues does not mean a person would become ill, but neither can healthy people consider themselves immune to the illness.

“The CDC warns that even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others,” Williamson said. “It’s not too late to get a flu shot to protect against this serious disease. People become protected about two weeks after receiving the vaccine.”

Charles Thomas, state pharmacy director, said currently there is no widespread shortage of antiviral medications which may slow the spread of influenza, (sold commercially as Tamiflu and Relenza).

“While there are isolated seasonal shortages due to increased ordering during this time and the lag in restocking by wholesalers, there is no reason to believe that there is any significant long-lasting shortage at this time,” Thomas said.

Officials encourage citizens to seek vaccines and treatment for flu and flu-like illnesses with their primary or emergency physicians.