Alabama sees significant flu activity this winter season

Published 5:35 pm Friday, December 22, 2017

With Christmas comes joy, family visits, gifts, and it seems this year a potential risk for the flu.

The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) reported Monday a current rise in the influenza virus for the state of Alabama.

This elevated activity of the virus could be closely related to the recent changes in the weather.

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“[It’s due to] the rollercoaster weather these last few weeks, actually these last few months,” said Jones Drugs owner and pharmacist Jimmy Ansley.

“The humidity has been consistently high, which is the perfect breeding ground for airborne organisms and bacteria.”

With this environment, Ansley commented, “I think there is more to come.”

Three types of influenza virus affect individuals on a yearly basis.

Patients at a higher risk include young children, individuals over the age of 65, pregnant women and individuals with respiratory health conditions.

With February being the traditional peak of the season, the early December activity is alarming.

Local pediatrician Dr. Duane Williams said, “Influenza A is what we are seeing.” In Butler County, he has seen many cases already and plans to see more. “We’ve seen more of it in adults and its just now picking up in children. We are on the verge of the beginning of flu season.”

An annual influenza vaccination is recommended for patients of all ages.

Dr. Williams suggested, “Its still not too late to get the shot. Babies should receive two shots.”

Pregnant women are at higher risk and are highly recommended for the shot. “Giving the flu vaccination to a pregnant woman will protect their child well after the child is born,” Dr. Williams said.

Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough, headache, sore throat, muscle aches and extreme fatigue.

Nurse practitioner Melinda Gibson described the symptoms as, “a sudden onset.” Gibson works with children and reported a total of 45 cases for the months of November and December at Greenville Pediatrics.

“Usually the fever and cough is what clues us in to check for flu,” Gibson said.

Along with the vaccination, there are many other ways to help the prevention cause.

“Wash your hands,” Gibson said. “Avoid large crowds and sick people.”

The ADPH insists that, with the spread of this strain, everyone is at risk this season. District medical officer Dr. Karen Landers said, “Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others.”

Currently, the Butler County Health Department, physicians, and pharmacists in the area provide the influenza vaccination as a joint effort to fight the virus this season.