Doctors: Flu cases normal this time of year

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 1, 2015

0101-Flu-webFlu-like illnesses are spiking according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, but local officials said the severity isn’t here.

“We’ve had a large number of influenza cases over the month,” Covington Pediatrics Dr. Charles Eldridge said. “There is an epidemic, but the number of influenza cases this year is not out of proportion to a normal flu season.

“Our absolute numbers of type A flu cases over the month have stabilized or maybe even started going down a little bit,” he said. “But we have started to see some other strains of flu, like type B, that we haven’t seen early in the flu season.”

Eldridge said that that the office has not seen as large a number of severely sick children as he has in past years, but there have been large numbers.

“It’s an extremely contagious virus this year, but not a virus that has caused a lot of severe illness,” Eldridge said.

There have been 15 pediatric deaths across the country related to the influenza this year, according to the CDC.

Teresa Porter, the emergency preparedness coordinator for Alabama Department of Public Health Area 9, said there have been influenza-like illnesses reported above baseline in the southwest area of the state.

“Influenza is not a reportable condition, but we do surveillance,” Porter said. “When I’ve talked to several of the hospitals in the past few days, they’ve seen a lot of flu-like illnesses.”

Dr. Roger Boyington at Covington Family Care said he’s seeing much more flu than other urgent care illnesses, but has been fortunate that people are being easily treated.

“We’re seeing a pretty good bit of flu and most of it is influenza A, and some B,” Boyington said. “They’re responding well to Tamiflu, an antiviral agent.

“We don’t see as sickly of patients as the hospital, but we have had to admit a few people,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate here. A lot of people were immunized, it would have been worse if they hadn’t.”

The best treatment for the flu is prevention, officials said.

Eldridge, Porter and Boyington all agreed these suggested prevention steps should be taken:

• get vaccinated. It’s not too late to get the flu shot, the flu season continues into March;

• avoid close contact with people or crowds. Practice social distancing;

• stay home if feeling ill or running a fever;

• stay hydrated;

• cover your mouth when you cough, sneeze or blow your nose; and most importantly,

• practice good hand washing.