Local health officials haven’t yet seen a surge in the number of influenza infections, but said they’re preparing for the worst as the flu season intensifies.
The neighboring states of Alabama, Missouri and Mississippi are already showing high rates of reported flu cases and flu-like symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, and reported cases are on the rise statewide, so staff at the Northeast Regional Health Office are urging everyone to receive vaccinations.
“It’s unpredictable,” nurse practitioner Linda McClure said Monday. “With the CDC saying there could be increase in H1N1 this year, I would not be surprised to see flu cases increase in the area.”
H1N1 virus, or swine flu, was a new strain that surfaced in 2009 in Mexico and quickly spread across the globe, infecting both the healthy and the usual high-risk groups and leading the CDC and the World Health Organization to classify it as a pandemic.
This year, H1N1 is again the prevalent form of the flu, and drug stores, health departments and physicians are standing by with the serum to fight it.
“We’re still advising flu vaccinations — like we always do — good hand washing and staying out of close contact with people showing flu-like symptoms,” McClure said.
Local health departments can administer the shots for about $30, but insured patients may be able to have some or all of the costs covered at pharmacies or their primary care physicians’ offices.
The Northeast Regional Health Office has seen other respiratory infections, including bronchitis and pneumonia, McClure said.
Proper care when interacting with those showing signs of fever, cough, a sore throat and a runny or stuffy nose should be exercised to reduce the possibility of infection.
The CDC said between 5 and 20 percent of the U.S. population contracts the flu each year on average and more than 200,000 are hospitalized with seasonal flu-related complications.
The elderly, very small children, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems are at especially high risk for serious flu complications.