By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Influenza is hitting Alabama and most the country unusually hard this year. Reports of influenza have been higher than the state’s baseline for seven straight weeks. More samples of suspected influenza cases have been turned in to this point, than in all of the 2011/2012 flu season.
Symptoms of the flue include: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches and/or often extreme fatigue. Flue is a very contagious respiratory illness
The executive vice president of the Alabama Hospital Association Rosemary Blackmon said, “We have heard numerous stories of hospitals with high volumes of flu patients, both those treated in the emergency department and those who are being admitted. At this point, although many hospitals are full, they are able to effectively care for the patients they have and, to our knowledge, are not asking for additional resources. They are taking extra precautions by requesting visitors avoid coming to the hospital if they think they might be sick.”
Despite the epidemic, stocks of antiviral medications such as Tamiflu and Relenza appear to be adequate. Alabama Pharmacy Director, Charles Thomas, said, “While there are isolated seasonal shortages due to increased ordering during this time and the lag in restocking by wholesalers, there is no reason to believe that there is any significant long-lasting shortage at this time.”
Alabama Health Officer Dr. Donald Williamson said, “The CDC warns that even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others. It’s not too late to get a flu shot to protect against this serious disease. People become protected about two weeks after receiving the vaccine.”
The state is advising everyone over six months of age to be immunized for influenza and to follow infection control practices. Vaccinations are especially important for: all children between 6 months and 5 years of age, adults 50 years of age and older, adults and children with chronic disorders, pregnant women, children aged 6 months through 18 years on chronic aspirin therapy, residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, persons who are immunosuppressed, health care workers, out-of-home caregivers, people who regularly come to households with children less than age 5 and adults over 50 years, and people who are morbidly obese (defined as a body mass index, or BMI, of 40 or greater).
The vaccine is a good match to the circulating viruses and there are no vaccine shortages presently in the state. All county health departments have the vaccine available.