Flu season ramping up in Mississippi

Flu season ramping up in Mississippi

Flu season is here and so is the flu. It is still early but the viral disease has already struck people in the region, with more sure to follow. Nationally, as of December 21, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 22 people have died from influenza or its complications during the current flu season. “We’ve seen both Influenza A and B,” said Deborah Wilmoth, family practitioner at Verona Family Medicine & Urgent Care, of the two different strains of the disease. She said this year differs from last year in that the flu is presenting later than usual. None of her flu patients have required hospitalization. Like most health practitioners, Wilmoth urges the public to be immunized against influenza; it is the simplest and easiest method of avoiding the flu, which can knock a person down for a week or even longer. Symptoms can include fever (or feeling feverish/chills), cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue (tiredness) and possibly nausea and diarrhea. Wilmoth said she recommends treatment with antiviral Tamiflu if influenza is detected in the first 48 hours. Otherwise, she tells patients to rest, drink plenty of fluids to remain hydrated and take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or ibuprofen. Wilmoth also noted that Influenza A is usually “harsher” than Influenza B. “We’re starting to see increased activity, which is not unexpected,” said Dr. Paul Byers, state epidemiologist with the Mississippi State Department of Health. “It’s the time of year to be expected.” He said reports of influenza cases are coming in from “all parts of Mississippi.” Byers said it’s not too late to get a flu shot; while it doesn’t protect against every possible strain of flu, Byers said it can “reduce the effects” of the disease should a patient come down with a strain not specifically targeted with this year’s vaccine. The CDC annually assesses which strains it thinks will be most prevalent and then vaccines are formulated on that prediction. While it is science, it’s sometimes not an exact science. Influenza is nothing to treat lightly, as anyone who has had it can attest. One hundred years ago, millions of people died from the disease. From the CDC website: “The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in recent history. It was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin. Although there is not universal consensus regarding where the virus originated, it spread worldwide during 1918-1919. In the United States, it was first identified in military personnel in spring 1918. It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States.” Byers said last year’s flu season was “moderate.” The generally recognized flu season is October to March and even into May, with peak months December to February. He said it is still too early to predict what the current season holds. One pediatric fatality due to the flu was reported in Mississippi during the 2018-19 season. “Flu is not a benign illness,” said Byers. “Patients feel miserable but most recover. For high-risk patients, it can be deadly.” Those patients include the very young, the elderly, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems. In many of those cases, the flu can cause pneumonia. Flu shots are available at most medical clinics and pharmacies. The Lee County Health Department, like most county health departments, offers pediatric (six months to 18 years) flu shots for $10. Health insurance covers the cost of influenza immunizations in many cases.

C. Richard Cotton

Freelance writer/photographer/editor/author

243 County Road 783

Saltillo MS 38866

rcotton5@att.net

662-231-6222

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