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Flu, other respiratory viruses circulating in state

Six respiratory viruses, including influenza A and B, are circulating throughout Alabama, and a public health official said it’s not too late to get the flu vaccine, cautioning people to take measures to protect themselves and others from illness.

“We are seeing an uptick in flu activity in the state,” based on the Alabama Department of Public Health’s latest influenza report, for the week ending Dec. 28, said Dr. Karen Landers, a district medical officer with the department. “Our message hasn’t changed: Get your flu shot if you haven’t already.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone six months of age and older should get a vaccine every flu season with rare exceptions. Most vaccines in the United States protect against four different flu viruses: two influenza A viruses (H1N1 and H3N2) and two influenza B viruses. Health officials said it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to be effective.

The vaccine last year was about 50 percent effective, according to Landers. “The vaccine is very safe, and hopefully it will be that effective this year,” she said.

The latest ADPH report shows influenza A/H1N1, influenza B/Victoria and four other respiratory viruses are known to be circulating in Alabama.

Landers recommends washing your hands often with soap and water, staying home if you’re sick and covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing, especially with many area schools resuming classes this week.

“It’s important to protect ourselves and reduce the spread of illness to our family, friends, co-workers and others in the community,” Landers said.

The ADPH began receiving reports of influenza activity in September and, in the most recent report released last week by the ADPH, significant influenza activity was detected in seven of the eight public health districts in Alabama, including the northern district. That district includes Morgan, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Cullman, Colbert, Lauderdale, Franklin, Jackson, Marshall, Winston and Marion counties.

The report indicates that in the northern district, 6.2 percent of outpatient visits to health care providers were reportedly due to influenza-like illness. That’s lower than 8.57 percent statewide and lower than 13.9 percent in the southeastern district, which has the state’s highest percentage reported.

“We’ve seen some cases of influenza and upper respiratory illnesses” at Athens Limestone Hospital’s emergency department, said hospital spokeswoman Felicia Lambert. The number of cases is typical for this time of the year, she said.

“Influenza is a deadly illness,” Landers said. “The flu vaccine, along with personal preventive measures, will markedly help remove the risk of influenza.”

Deaths from flu statewide have been down so far compared to the same time frame a year earlier.

Three non-pediatric deaths due to influenza were reported from the end of September until Dec. 28 in Alabama, said Dr. Burnestine Taylor, the ADPH’s medical officer for disease control and prevention. No pediatric deaths have been reported.

During the previous flu season, through Dec. 29, 2018, there were an estimated 11 non-pediatric deaths and no pediatric deaths, according to Taylor.

No information was released on where the deaths occurred.

Taylor said the flu season typically lasts through the end of February or early March.

From The Decatur Daily.

 

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