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What the Flu is Going On in Alabama?

Influenza–like illness is at 7.30% statewide. This represents a decrease in the number of patients visiting their doctor with flu-like symptoms as compared to last week, although it is still above baseline ï Geographic spread** was reported as widespread to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ï During the last three weeks, Influenza A, 2009 H1; Influenza A, H3; and Influenza B were identified. Although subtype H3 was reported, they were most likely H3N2. ï During Week 8 (February 17 – February 23), 55 influenza-like illness (ILI) outbreaks were reported

Tips on staying healthy through the flu season and into the new year.

Seniors and Caregivers are at a higher risk and two of the most likely groups to contract the flu this season. Due to the aging process, older adults have weaker immune systems and caregivers do as well because of chronic stress. The flu is a serious illness in older adults and may cause further complications, hospitalization even death. It has been reported that 71-85% of flu related deaths and 54-70% of related hospitalizations occurred in individuals 65 and older.

There are ways to decrease the chances of getting sick and reduce the severity of the illness if you do catch the flu. This flu season of 2018-2019, the CDC recommends a high dose flu shot or shots with adjuvant for seniors 65 and older. It is also recommended to get the flu shot by the end of October when flu season begins but getting the flu shot through January is being advised. It is better to get it late than not get it at all. It takes 2 weeks for the protective flu antibodies to build up in the body. Even if you do get sick, having the flu antibodies on board can result in a milder case. By getting the flu shot you reduce the risk of being hospitalized by 50%. Other ways to reduce your risk of contracting the flu is proper and frequent handwashing for at least 20 seconds, using hand sanitizer often, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth, regularly disinfect your daily environment including your cell phones, computer, desktop phones, light switches, door knobs, especially kitchens, bathrooms, inside vehicles and work spaces. Staying away from people who are sick is a given but worth repeating. Exercising regularly boosts the immune system and could reduce your risk of catching a cold by a third. We all know how important it is to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. Drinking extra water and hot tea also keeps the nasal passages moist and blocks germs before they can enter the body. Getting the proper amount of protein and vitamin C in your diet also helps keep your immune system in check.

If you are one of the unfortunate ones who comes down with the flu this year, visit your physician at the first signs and symptoms. Taking an antiviral as soon as possible (within 2 days of getting sick) will lessen the severity of symptoms and help prevent serious complications, especially in older adults. If you are sick avoid passing it on to others because you could be contagious 5+ days from your first symptoms. Washing hands often, coughing/sneezing into a tissue, immediately discarding it and keeping your distance from others can help prevent spreading the illness. Drinking extra liquids helps to thin out mucous and congestion. Drinking chicken soup helps infection fighting white blood cells work more effectively. Using a humidifier can help soothe the throat and ease the coughing. Sleeping slightly elevated reduces inflammation and prevents mucous from pooling in the sinus cavities which could lead to a secondary infection. According to the ADPH, Alabama has seen significant Influenza activity as of 12-1-18. It is recommended by the CDC that everyone 6 months of age and older receive a yearly flu shot. The flu has hit Alabama hard again this year, but it is not too late to get your flu shot, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.