Alabama flu numbers on the rise; Cullman numbers below the baseline | News

With only the first month of Alabama’s flu season—which runs from October to May, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH)—counties across most of the state are reporting spikes in cases of influenza-like illness (ILI), causing health experts to consider how should the public prepare for this year’s flu season.

Seven of the state’s eight public health districts are reporting ILI cases well above the baseline seasonal level of 3.27. While the Northern District — in which Cullman is the southernmost district — is currently the only district currently reporting cases below the baseline of 2.73, Good Hope Medical medical director and owner Adam Harrison said the spread of the disease is increasing. way north

Harrison said staff at his clinic this week ran about 15 tests that came back positive for the flu. Five of these tests were conducted on Friday, October 28. “It’s certainly safe to say that it’s becoming very prominent in the area right now,” he said.

Sixteen flu outbreaks were reported in Alabama last week alone. ADPH District Medical Officer Wes Stubblefield said ADPH defines these outbreaks as the occurrence of more cases of the disease than expected in a given area or among a specific group of people over a given period of time, and related to a common source.

“For an ILI/influenza outbreak, ill individuals must have symptoms consistent with ILI (fever greater than 100.4), cough and/or sore throat, or have positive laboratory PCR tests for influenza. To determine the weekly level of influenza activity in each county, surveillance components include whether there are two or more institutional (e.g., hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, schools/schools, prisons, etc.), percentage of visits due to ILI, and laboratory-confirmed influenza cases per the last three weeks,” Stubblefield said.

Good Hope Medical nurse practitioner Lindsay Harrison said the most prominent strain we see in the clinic right now is H3N2, or influenza-A, and that one of the most critical lines of defense in protecting yourself and those around you is getting your annual flu shot as soon as possible – the latest data from the CDC shows that approximately 6,300 deaths were prevented by the flu vaccine in 2019-2020. Good Hope Medical staff are actively fighting the spread of the disease by visiting local businesses and administering vaccines there instead of asking workers to take time off to visit the clinic. However, for those who need to visit the clinic, Lindsay said walk-ins are welcome any time during clinic hours of 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and that staff will make sure the process is done as quickly as possible.

While the ADPH suggests that everyone over the age of six months get vaccinated, it has increased importance for those who fall into what is considered a “high-risk” category.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, people over the age of 65 account for the majority of flu-related hospitalizations and deaths. New for this year, the CDC recommends that people in this age range receive one of three flu vaccines when possible: Fluzone high-dose quadrivalent vaccine, Flublok quadrivalent recombinant vaccine, or Fluad quadrivalent adjuvanted vaccine. It is recommended that you discuss these vaccines with your primary care physician to help you decide which vaccine is recommended, and if none of these vaccines are available, the standard dose vaccine is considered sufficient.

Pregnant women are also more susceptible to cases of the flu severe enough to cause hospitalization and can be vaccinated at any time during pregnancy. Prenatal vaccines have the added benefit of potentially protecting a developing baby who can pick up antibodies from the mother to carry with them after birth.

Other individuals ADPH considers particularly important to vaccinate are children under five, healthcare workers, people with weakened immune systems, people with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease, and anyone who lives or works directly with anyone in these high-risk categories.

Adam Harrison said that in addition to getting a flu shot, simple hygiene efforts and common sense can go a long way in preventing the spread of the flu, and that small actions like washing your hands, coughing into your elbow and staying home when you develop any symptoms are in this time of year essential.

“If you look at the numbers for the last few years (2019, 2020, 2021), the flu is on the decline, a lot of it is people washing their hands, not being in close contact with each other, it’s a lot of common sense stuff that we all know, he said.

Significant influenza activity is based on reported influenza-like illness or reported outbreaks for the week and positive influenza samples from the previous three weeks.

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