Flu cases on rise locally

Published 12:02 am Thursday, February 16, 2017

Flu cases in children and teens have picked up in recent weeks, according to local and state health officials, with almost as many positive flu tests in the first two weeks of February as in all of January.

Bobbie Meyer, senior director of support services at Andalusia Health, said 65 people have tested positive for Type A flu since Jan. 1. Thirty-five of those were in January, and 30 have been in the first 15 days of February.

0216-fluAt the hospital’s walk-in clinic, nurse practitioner Jill O’Brien said in the last 10 days, the office has seen more flu than the entire flu season.

“Mainly in the 14 to18-year-old range,” she said. “I did see two adults today and that was the first time.”

O’Brien said that the children’s flu symptoms were not the usual.

She said they have been a little achy and had sore throats, but were not really feverish.

Adults, however, are presenting the usual flu symptoms, she said.

Kristen Averette, marketing coordinator at Mizell Memorial Hospital said they had 45 cases of flu in January.

Covington Pediatrics also reported seeing a steady amount of flu.

Local pharmacists said they have been seeing a good number of people come through their doors as well.

“We are seeing a lot more,” said Jeff Bailey, owner of Bailey’s Pharmacy. “We weren’t seeing any or not much at all before three weeks ago.”

Bailey said they were seeing a lot more children than adults as well.

David Darby of Darby’s Pharmacy also said this week that flu cases are on the upswing.

The Alabama Department of Public Health reported that Alabama is one of 23 states experiencing high influenza-like illness activity and one of 43 reporting widespread activity.

ADPH said that it’s not too late to get flu shots at local health departments, doctors’ offices or pharmacies to safeguard from the flu.

Dr. Karen Landers, ADPH said, “It is not too late to vaccinate for flu and reduce the risk of illness. In addition, it is important that people wash hands, cover coughs, and stay home when they have influenza-like illnesses.”

Each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studies how well the flu vaccine protects against flu illness. While individuals and people in certain age groups may develop different levels of immunity, vaccine reduces the chances of getting flu by about 50 to 60 percent or more when the vaccine viruses are like the ones circulating in the community.

This year, laboratory tests done by the ADPH show that most of the circulating virus in Alabama is influenza A (H3), which is similar to the virus protection found in this year’s flu vaccine. Landers reminds the public that certain people with influenza are at higher risk of complications from the disease. It is important that those who have underlying health conditions or may be caregivers of high-risk individuals check with their physicians or healthcare providers about antiviral medications that might help them recover more quickly from the flu.