Alabama among states hit hard by flu

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 28, 2013

Alabama is among the 10 states reporting widespread flu activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And while Covington County has not been immune to influenza, it appears the season has not reached its peak here.

Bobbie Meyer, director of laboratory and infection prevention at Andalusia Regional Hospital, said ARH personnel administered 358 flu tests between Nov. 1 and Dec. 27, and only 52 – or about 14 percent – tested positive for Type A flu. Seven tested positive for Type B.

“Our numbers reflect those patients that come to the emergency department, outpatient lab, or are admitted,” Meyer said. Those numbers would not include tests administered in doctor’s offices.

But Suzanne Boyington said there has been a spike in Influenza A cases seen at Covington Family Care, which also operates a weekend urgent care center, in the last week to 10 days.

Widespread flu has been seen in Alabama, Alaska, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming, according to the CDC’s latest weekly flu advisory report, which covers the week ending Dec.ember 21. According to the CDC, “widespread” means that more than half of the state’s geographic regions, such as counties or parishes, are reporting flu cases.

Already, five people have died from H1N1, also known as swine flu, in Texas. And health experts say that since the flu season generally peaks in January and February, it’s not too late to get a flu shot.

The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. Handwashing, local health care experts say, is the second most effective way to prevent the spread of influenza.