Alabama Residents Encouraged To Receive Flu Vaccine
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Flu season is underway in Alabama and health officials want to make sure residents get a flu shot.
We shouldnt forget that the flu is still with us, Dr. Doyin Ogunbi an internal medicine physician said.
Ogunbi says 2020s flu season was not typical, and precautions being taken for the COVID-19 health pandemic aided that.
The best way to protect yourself from the flu is to get the flu vaccine, Ogunbi said.
Those 6 months old and up qualify for a flu shot. Those with high risk for flu complications, including people 65 years and older, young children, and people with chronic conditions like asthma or heart disease are especially encouraged. Also, people who care for or live with these high-risk populations should get vaccinated.
” Its good to get your flu shot in September or by the end of October at the latest in order to be ready for the upcoming flu season, said Dr. Scott Harris, State Health Officer. The good news is that this years vaccine protects against four different flu strains, so there is added protection.
There are two options for getting a flu vaccination: the traditional shot or the nasal spray vaccine. The type of vaccine one receives depends on factors such as age, health status and relevant allergies including eggs.
Like COVID-19, the flu is a respiratory virus. The Alabama Department of Public Health also encourages the public to follow basic mitigation standards like handwashing and social distancing.
As Flu Season Approaches Alabama Experts Urge Immunizations Amid Pandemic
MOUNTAIN BROOK, Ala. As flu season approaches, medical experts are urging people to get their flu shot soon. The State Health Department recommends people get the shot around late September, or early October for the best protection.
And that will usually carry you into March, Co-Owner of Ritchs Pharmacy Rebecca Sorrell said.
With less COVID-19 restrictions this fall like mask wearing and social distancing, some fear flu cases could be worse. Pharmacies like Ritchs Pharmacy are gearing up for people to get their flu shots and have already administered some.
Signs up. Flu shots are available now. Weve started administering vaccines for those in need, Sorrell said.
When it comes to people being hesitant or just refusing to get either flu or COVID vaccine, Sorrell believes people are tired of all the medial advice out there.
You know, you must do this. Youve got to get this within 28 days, you must get this in 21 days. And its just a lot to digest, Sorrell said.
But like COVID, the flu can be deadly. She says it is safe for people to get both shots around the same time.
The shots can be co-administered with the COVID-19 vaccine. And by that, I mean they can be given at the same time, Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Department of Public Health said.
Because getting immunized for both is the best way for people to protect themselves.
Where Can I Get A Flu Shot
There are a lot of options where to get the flu vaccine, and some of them are free as long as you have health insurance. Flu shots are now available at CVS and Walgreens, the countrys two largest retail pharmacies. Walk-ins are welcome, according to both pharmacies, but save time by scheduling an appointment. Other options include a doctor’s office, urgent care, community health centers, hospitals and school campus health centers.
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When To Get To The Emergency Room
Monroe said children who are laboring to breathe or showing signs of dehydration need treatment right away. Certainly we advise visiting an emergency room if your child is experiencing respiratory distress or has dehydration, she said. Monroe adds that both Childrens and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children be in the care of a primary care physician .
For more information about when to visit an emergency room, visit www.childrensal.org.
Flu Cases Decline For Second Week In Alabama
So far, flu season has been relatively gentle on southwest Alabama.
According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, the states southwest district, which includes Baldwin County, is leading the state as one of the places seeing the least number of doctor visits associated with flu-like symptoms. Officials said 5.9 percent of patients in this area report flu symptoms while the number across the state remains at 5.11 percent.
At Thomas Hospital, officials there treated 84 patients for influenza between Nov. 3, 2019 and Jan. 5, 2020, a staggering decline from the previous year which saw 139 patients in the same time period.
Between Nov. 1, 2019 and Jan. 20, 2020, South Baldwin Regional Medical Center in Foley treated 224 patients for influenza. The number of patients treated the previous year was unavailable by press time.
The Centers for Disease Control also reported a drop in flu activity for the past two weeks, however high levels of the virus remain active in 32 states, including Alabama.
Officials said they are hopeful that flu season is beginning to wind down, but it is still too early to tell. And, many places, including southern states, have faced a very different flu experience than in previous years.
Sheehan also said since the B strain is one that more people have faced in previous years, the elderly population may have had a better immune response and suffered less illness and fatalities.
On average flu season lasts 13 weeks and peaks in January or February.
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Supply Chain Shortage On Flu Medicine Across North Alabama
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Flu season is just beginning, and several Pharmacies throughout North Alabama are reporting a shortage in flu medication like Tamiflu and Xofluza.
Last year flu cases were almost nonexistent. But, this year with less masking and social distancing flu cases could be up. Now, theres a shortage of medication.
Pharmacist and Co-owner of Athens Pharmacy, Phillip Presley says Xofluza is the main issue at Athens Pharmacy.
There is a single 40-milligram tablet and a single 80-milligram tablet. The 80 milligram is the one we cant get and thats the adult dose, said Presley.
Not only can that impact your health, but also your wallet.
The issue this creates is it is the same price no matter which strength. So you can say well we will do just two 40 but the problem is that is twice as much cost and generally, your insurance is not going to go for that, said Presley.
Athens Pharmacy still has Tamiflu but with its five-day course of therapy, its not ideal for most patients.
The advantage of Xofluza is its a newer drug so it has better coverage perhaps and its. One dose, said Presley.
Presley says we should keep implementing certain COVID precautions as strict as last year.
For whatever reason, we didnt have any last year. Now we sit because COVID overrode that or we misdiagnosed it some with COVID or was it because we were all wearing masks, washing our hands, and staying away from each other.Which helps with the flu, said Presely.
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Throughout the entirety of last year’s unusually light flu season, just one child died. In contrast, 199 children died from the flu two years ago, and 144 the year before that.
“This is setting itself up to be more of a normal flu season,” Lynnette Brammer, who tracks flu-like illnesses for the CDC, told The Associated Press.
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‘flurona’ Already Reported In North Alabama
Israel has reported its first case of “flurona,” a dual infection of both Covid-19 and the flu. The announcement sparked concerns over what the combination could mean for infected patients.
However, “flurona” is not a new combination of viruses.
“With the ‘flurona,’ it’s basically a combination of the flu virus and the Covid virus. I can tell you we’ve seen that, but it’s not that common,” said Dr. Ali Hassoun, infectious disease specialist at Huntsville Hospital.
Flu cases and coronavirus cases have both steadily increased over the past month. According to Huntsville Hospital, they have already treated patients who have been infected with both viruses.
“The ones who get these combined infections have multiple risk factors, and they get exposed to a certain point where they can get both these viruses,” explained Hassoun.
He said, since the beginning of the pandemic, fewer than 3% of Huntsville Hospital patients have had both viruses.
“Treatment is going to be the same. You’re going to treat the flu virus and the Covid virus at the same time,” said Hassoun.
The Alabama Department of Public Health said this flu season is already worse than last year, as many people are no longer wearing masks or social distancing.
“We aren’t masking as consistently as we did last year,” said Dr. Wes Stubblefield, district medical officer for ADPH. “The memory is not there from last year’s flu season. A lot of people have just sort of dropped off the radar.”
Alabama Seeing Less Severe 2020
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Earlier this year, health experts feared hospitals would be overrun this winter trying to tackle both the flu and COVID-19, but so far that hasnt been the case.
According to this chart from the Alabama Department of Public Health, statewide influenza-like illness is at 1.32% which is a slight increase compared to last week, but is still well below Alabamas baseline of 3.29%. It is also a stark contrast to the over 8% of illness seen this same time the previous two flu seasons.
Montgomery-area pulmonologist Dr. David Thrasher said in past years, city hospitals would be full of flu patients right now, but so far that hasnt been the case.
The fact that our flu numbers are down 60% from this time last year is just phenomenal, Dr. Thrasher said. Thats a blessing because if we had the normal number of people that had the flu going to the hospital, many of them end up on ventilators and many of them die every year from the flu about 40,000 on average, our hospitals would be overwhelmed.
Health experts believe that high vaccination rates against the flu combined with social distancing, mask-wearing and hand-washing employed to stop the spread of the coronavirus played a huge role in preventing influenza transmission this season.
Clearly, the big deal is the masks. Probably if there was no vaccinations, wearing masks would cut the numbers way down, just that alone, Thrasher said.
But in January 2021, most states are reporting minimal activity.
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What To Do When You Get The Flu
Most Alabama residents who get the flu experience mild illness and will want to stay home and avoid close contact with others as much as possible. Despite this, those who are at high risk of flu-related complications or are concerned about their symptoms should contact their health care provider.
This video from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains steps to protect yourself and your family from the flu.
Why Get A Flu Shot
As students get back to in-person learning and states loosen mask and social distancing mandates amid a return to social gatherings, health experts worry this year may resemble a more typical flu season.
Last year, we didnt have a very big flu season because people were using masks and that decreased the flu season activity, said Dr. Ricardo Correa, endocrinologist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. If we do the same thing this year and we wear masks as much as we can, then the flu season will not hit us as hard as years prior.
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Flu Activity Increasing In Alabama 4 Deaths Reported
All eight of Alabamas health districts have seen lab-confirmed cases of flu in the last three weeks.
Flu is increasing in many areas of the state, according to the latest figures from the Alabama Department of Public Health.
All eight of Alabamas health districts have seen lab-confirmed cases of flu in the last three weeks and four influenza-associated deaths – all adults – have been reported since October.
The northern, northeastern, west central and southeastern health areas, as well as those made up of Jefferson and Mobile counties, have reported significant flu activity. The highest levels were in the southeastern area, where 5.71% of doctors visits are for influenza-like illnesses. Thats followed by the west central region at 4.17%.
Last year at the same time, only two areas in Alabama reported flu cases while the remainder had no significant activity, a side effect of social distancing and other steps taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19. ADPH said other illnesses, including COVID-19, RSV and Rhinovirus, all of which can cause symptoms similar to the flu, are also currently circulating.
A similar increase in flu cases is being reported across the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control, while vaccinations may be down.
There are early signs that flu vaccination uptake is down this season compared to last, CDC said.
Outpatient Ili Trends In Alabama
Each week, approximately 2,200 outpatient healthcare providers around the country report data to the CDC on the total number of patients seen for any reason and the number of those patients with influenza-like illness . For this system, ILI is defined as fever , a cough, and/or a sore throat without a known cause other than influenza.
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Flu Activity Currently Is High Or Very High In Eight States Or Us Territories So Far Two Children Have Died
BIRMINGHAM, AL Last year, the influenza virus took a season off largely due to COVID-19 mitigation measures. School closures, social distancing, mask-wearing and canceled travel all contributed to an unusually mild flu season in Alabama and across the country.
This year, it’s likely we won’t get so lucky.
Influenza activity in the United States is increasing, though the amount varies by region, according to data compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hospitalizations are rising and, so far, two pediatric deaths have been recorded, according to CDC data.
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Last Flu Season was Severe
A Sharp Increase Locally
More Americans Died Last Season
Vaccine Acceptance Remains Low
Despite the rise in flu cases and flu-related deaths both locally and nationally, many still ignore the facts and do not get their recommended flu shot.What was surprising to me was that the acceptance of the flu vaccine was not higher than usual even though it was a bad flu season, Dr. Camins says. We instituted a mandatory influenza vaccination policy at UAB Medicine, so we had virtually 100% acceptance among health care workers.
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Uab Faculty Staff Uab Medicine Employees
This year, all UAB faculty, staff and UAB Medicine employees can get their flu vaccination through Employee Health.
Employees who are UAB Medicine patients can get a free flu shot Monday through Friday, with no appointment necessary, at these locations:
- Kirklin Clinic, 2nd Floor, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
- UAB Hospital-Highlands, 3rd Floor, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
- Injection Clinic 539 Richard Arrington Boulevard South, 7 a.m.-3 p.m.
The CDC and UAB Medicine physicians encourage everyone to get a flu shot annually, but particularly this year as COVID-19 continues to circulate in the community. Employees who are pregnant, allergic to eggs, or have previously had an adverse reaction and wish to receive their flu vaccine by Employee Health should consult their primary care physician prior and have written permission to receive.
Types Of Flu Vaccinations
Traditional flu vaccines are created to protect against different flu viruses that scientific research has indicated will be most common during the upcoming season. The viruses in the flu vaccine change each year based on medical and scientific estimates about which types and strains of viruses will circulate in a given year. Influenza vaccinations are available as:
- The flu shot, an inactive vaccine that is administered through a needle
- The flu mist or nasal spray, a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses
There may be certain restrictions associated with the different types of flu vaccinations, and patients should consult with their doctors prior to getting vaccinated.
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Alabama Doctors Discuss Identifying Covid
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Doctors fully expect folks to get sick during the winter months, even before the coronavirus.
For reasons that we dont quite understand cold weather does seem to be associated with an increased risk of respiratory illnesses, said Dr. Wes Stubblefield with the Alabama Department of Public Health.
While it is the cold and flu season, medical experts believe you should never assume especially with COVID-19 variants, such as omicron and delta, on the loose.
Everything looks like COVID, Stubblefield said. There are very few symptoms that are very particularly COVID, other than the loss of taste or smell, which is still that very, very peculiar symptom that nothing else seems to cause.
With similar symptoms, experts stress the importance of COVID-19 testing.
Dont make that decision based on a clinical judgment that, oh, this is how I felt when I had the flu before, said Dr. Aruna Arora with the Medical Association of the State of Alabama.
The doctor adds that knowing your status plays a big role in cutting down on community transmission.
The contagiousness and the exposure thats happening when you go to the grocery store without a mask, having the very symptoms that omicron has is extraordinarily dangerous to the community, Arora said.
Additionally, getting tested provides the health department with a more accurate view of how the pandemic is playing out.