Widespread flu cases a ‘continuing trend’

Published 4:29 pm Friday, December 7, 2012

The Alabama Department of Public Health has reported seeing an increase in the amount of flu cases being sent to the state lab to be identified and confirmed.

“It’s a continuing trend,” said Cory Kirkland, assistant administrator with the ADPH. “We have widespread influenza-like illnesses across the state, right now. I expect we’ll see even more.”

While people presenting with symptoms are already being treated, information is confirmed by the state lab and then forwarded to the Centers for Disease Control so accurate predictions can be made when it comes to how much of the flu vaccine will be needed next year.

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Kirkland said Alabama has not had so many flu cases this early in the season since 2003-2004.

“It’s not too late to get a flu vaccination. The people who are really at risk are the elderly, anyone over 65, people who have pulmonary or lung conditions, people who have diabetes and pregnant women,” said Dr. Robert Gilliam, medical director at South Alabama Rural Health Associates. “Anyone over six months of age, the CDC recommends they get vaccinated.”

And there’s more that can be done to try and avoid coming down with the flu.

“Careful, careful hygiene is important,” Gilliam said. “Wash your hands. I don’t recommend drinking out of a public fountain.”

It’s also a good idea to use hand sanitizer, Gilliam said, noting that hands must be wet with the sanitizer for 15 seconds for the product to be effective.

“Practice social distancing,” Kirkland said. “Make sure you are not drinking and eating after someone.”

The flu vaccination is available at the Butler County Health Department as well as at local pharmacies. Area physicians also carry the vaccination.