Flu activity on rise in state, locally

Published 12:03 am Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Seasonal flu activity is on the rise in the state, and in Covington County things are no different, health officials said Monday.

Influenza-like illnesses represented almost 11 percent of physician office visits state wide, according to reports, which was up from 6 percent of visits from the week before.

This year, the strain of illness has shifted from type A to type B, which is less aggressive or dangerous.

Flu maps from the CDC show Alabama is right in the middle of other Southern states where there are higher numbers of flu type B cases being diagnosed.

Locally, Dr. Reid Kerr’s office hasn’t seen that many.

“Literally, we’ve only seen maybe a handful, but more like two or three,” a nurse at Dr. Kerr’s office said.

In Opp, Dr. Robert Williams office has seen a lot of cases, a spokesperson said.

“We’re really busy today,” she said.

Tracey England, spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Public Health, said it’s important for residents to be mindful that flu season has begun.

“For Alabama, our peak season doesn’t begin until January or February,” she said. People think that just because flu season has begun that there are no more vaccines available.”

England said that’s not the case.

“We are still encouraging people to get vaccinated, if they haven’t already,” she said. “It’s important to remember that it takes about two weeks before the protection takes effect. Sometimes people think that the flu shot gives them the flu, but they already had it. The vaccine didn’t make them sick.”

And there’s plenty of the vaccine left, she said.

While it’s important for all residents to protect themselves from the flu, certain groups are considered high-risk, especially pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions, like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung diseases.

Additionally, health care workers, other people who live or care for high-risk people, should receive the vaccine.

Children younger than 6 months are at high risk of serious flu illness, but are too young to be vaccinated. Instead, their caretakers should receive the vaccination.

For more information on receiving a flu shot contact the Covington County Health Department at 222-1175 or your doctor’s office.