Not too late to receive flu vaccination

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, January 2, 2014

Influenza activity is increasing in Southeast Alabama but public health officials say it’s not too late for residents to protect themselves from the virus.

Sheila Newman, Troy Regional Medical Center infection control coordinator, said that Southeast Alabama is beginning to see the flu season.

“A few weeks ago, the flu that we were seeing was sporadic but now more and more parts of the state are reporting cases of the flu,” Newman said. “TRMC has admitted several cases of the flu virus.”

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Newman said that, while flu is not a reportable disease, the Alabama Department of Public Health does monitor trends and flu activity.

“The latest report based on CDC criteria, classified flu activity in Alabama as ‘widespread,’” Newman said. “That means that more than 50 percent of geographic regions in the state are reporting flu activity.”

Newman said the report addresses the spread of the flu, not its activity.

“This flu season, so far is showing more influenza A and that tends to be the one that causes moderate to severe illness,” she said. “Influenza A affects all ages but especially the young and middle-aged adults.”

The predominant strain of flu so far this season is H1N1, which is a variety of the Influenza A that was responsible for the influenza pandemic in 2009.

“The good news is that the best protection from the H1N1 is a shot away,” Newman said. “Getting the vaccine is the best protection we have against the flu, and H1N1 is a component of the vaccines given for this season. It is recommended that anyone not vaccinated should get the influenza vaccine now.”

In addition to getting the vaccine, people are encouraged to practice basic prevention measures, such as washing hands, covering coughs and staying home when sick.

“Symptoms of the flu can include the sudden onset of fever, fatigue muscle aches, coughs and sore throat,” Newman said. “If you develop symptoms, contact your medical doctor as soon as possible because there are some anti-viral medicines recommended to reduce complications or lessen the severity of the flu.”

Vaccines are available at health departments, medical providers and many pharmacies.

Newman said that TRMC provides flu vaccinations to all employees, students, volunteers, contact workers and physicians free of charge.

“In the healthcare field, regulation agencies are mandating goals to increase the compliance with the healthcare workers to get a flu vaccination every year, Newman said. “By the year 2020, the healthcare industry is expected to have 90 percent compliance with flu vaccination among the staff.”