Flu season gets underway early in county

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 6, 2012



Covington County pediatrician Dr. Bhagwan Bang said an unsual flu season is under way in the county, and he’s already seen more than 15 confirmed cases per day.

Throughout the state, physicians are already seeing a high rate of flu like illness before the normal peak in flu season.

“This year’s flu season is a little bit unusual in the sense it early and is reported to be widespread in Southern States in Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas and Louisiana,” Bang said. “Flu generally starts after Christmas, but here it is a month before.”

Bang said the last time flu season got under way early was in 2003-2004, when 48,000 people died, which is greater than the average 36,000 deaths.

This year, the predominate strain is H3N2, which is the same strain responsible for the extra deaths in 2003-2004.

“This may mean we could have a bad season like 2003-2004, however, this season the strain is a 90 percent match with the vaccine,” Bang said. “A lot more people got vaccinated, and we have more vaccine available.”

Bang said the country, as a whole, seems to be more prepared, which wasn’t the case in 2003-2004.

Both local physicians and officials with the Alabama Department of Public Health are encouraging residents to get their flu shots.

“I recommend everyone get vaccinated,” he said. “It’s an obligation to society. You may not have the flu because of a robust immune system, but you can certainly spread to someone who is susceptible to serious flu.”

Bang said children need to be vaccinated, if they are eligible because they are “efficient transmitters.”

Additionally, Bang recommends those who have already had the flu to still get vaccinated in order to protect themselves from other strains.

ADPH is promoting this week as National Influenza Vaccination Week, and officials say vaccination is the best prevention of the illness.

“The goal of the immunization is to stop the spread of diseases that are vaccine preventable by providing vaccine to the citizens of Alabama, educating the medical personnel and the public on the importance of vaccinations, and ensuring that children who are in day care, Head Start, and school are adequately immunized against diseases that are harmful and sometimes deadly,” an ADPH press release stated. “Vaccines help your body recognize and fight germs and protect you each time you come in contact with someone who is sick with any of these diseases.”

And from the looks of it, residents should heed the warning.

Some Star-News Facebook friends have had the flu, already this season.

“Oh, Lord, I have (had it),” said DeRae Kaeberlein. “It was horrible, and I even got the shot back in August.”

Jessica Gilliland was a flu victim, as well.

“My daughter and I have both had type-A flu,” she said.

Contact your local doctor’s office or call the Covington County Health Department for more information on vaccinations.