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Influenza is on the rise, again

Coming in waves, influenza is on the rise again. According to the Alabama Department of Health, every district except Mobile County is experiencing significant influenza activity across the state. On the surveillance map, Escambia county falls in the Southwestern region, and its classification is not expected to change any time soon.

“I’ve seen about 2 or 3 cases today, mostly kids. It is mainly kids with the flu,” said Dr. Isabel Villarreal, family practice physician at Brewton Medical Center. Treating many families in the community, Villarreal has seen an array of symptoms. “It is both types, I have seen more of type A in the last week. With type B, some have had a GI component to it, but it hasn’t lasted too long for the children, but has for adults,” shared Villarreal.

As stated by the ADPH, influenza like illness increased to 9.04% at the beginning of Feb. with 43 outbreaks of the virus reported. Other counties throughout the state have seen school closures from these outbreaks.

“The most important thing to know is that it can start out as the virus, but it can turn into an ear infection or bronchitis if it is not treated appropriately,” said Nurse Practitioner Natalie Young. Young works closely with Villarreal and has seen many similar cases of the virus.

“That is true, we have been seeing them come back with the other illnesses,” added Villarreal.

Young encouraged everyone with influenza-like symptoms to not take it lightly. “The cold and flu over the counter medication is so important to use to treat the symptoms,” explained Young.

According to the CDC, everyone 6 months or older should receive a flu vaccine each season. The CDC reported that flu vaccine prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related doctor’s visits each year. In fact, during the 2017-2018 flu season, the flu vaccination prevented an estimated 6.2 million influenza illnesses, 3.2 million influenza-associated medical visits, 91,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations, and 5,700 influenza-associated deaths.

Locally, Dr. Villarreal has witnessed the benefits of the vaccination and urged everyone to get a flu vaccination–even now.

“Prevention, Prevention, Prevention is key. Is it too late to get the flu vaccine? No, it’s never too late. If they have Type A, they can get Type B. I would still say get your flu vaccine if you haven’t,” said Villarreal.

Along with the flu vaccine, many are encouraged to stay home to prevent the spread of the virus. “The ones that do wash their hands don’t get it as easily.  You want the kids to be kept at home the ones that do have a lot of the symptoms. I think if the parents would keep those that are sick at home, we would see a lot less cases,” shared Villarreal.

The CDC recommends any patient sick with influenza should stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. The fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine before returning to everyday life.

Villarreal encouraged everyone to stay home and get well. She concluded, “People should just stay home, if they have any of these respiratory symptoms.”