The flu bug is biting victims in Alabama early and often.
The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta has listed Alabama as one of eight states experiencing widespread occurrences of the influenza virus.
According to the CDC website, 41 specimens that have been sent to the Bureau of Clinical Laboratories have tested positive for the flu virus.
“Overall influenza-like illness is above Alabama’s threshold representing significant activity,” the website states.
Local nurse practitioner, Bonnie Marshall, of Shoals Occupational Medicine, said the number of flu diagnoses being seen now are more like the numbers typically seen in January and February, the traditional peak time for flu in Alabama.
“Right now, our biggest vaccine is the flu vaccine,” she said. “The flu season started earlier this year.”
The state has not reported a flu-related death to date.
According to the state Department of Public Health, Lauderdale County has reported both influenza Type A and Type B, while Colbert County hasn’t reported any flu cases. Type A flu can infect both humans and animals, while Type B is only found in humans.
Area Health Officer Dr. Karen Landers said the early start to the flu season doesn’t mean the season is likely to end sooner. She said what could happen is the flu season could show two separate peaks, one in December and another several weeks down the road.
“We had a mild flu season last year,” Landers said. “When you start early like this, the virus has more time to propagate and spread in the community.”
Landers said the best defense is a vaccine. She said even with the start of flu season, the vaccine will still prove beneficial.
“The benefits are clear,” she said. “We will certainly see more flu activity. It is not too late to get vaccinated.”
She said being vaccinated against the flu virus also can help protect special populations that are not eligible for the flu vaccines. Those groups include infants younger than 6 months old and some with complicating medical factors or egg allergies.
“We can do our part for everyone by being vaccinated. We can help people that we don’t even know,” Landers said.
Jennifer Edwards can be reached at 256-740-5754 or jennifer.edwards@TimesDaily.com.Flu prevention
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
Avoid close contact with sick people.
If you are sick with flu-like illness, the Center for Disease Control recommends you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible.