Flu Outbreak Continues Locally; Officials Still Urge Vaccinations
January 13, 2013
Local health officials say a flu outbreak arrived early in Escambia County this year and has lasted longer than a typical flu season.
The first signs of the flu outbreak appeared in late October and the number of cases kept climbing throughout November, December and into January.
For the October 28 through January 5, Sacred Heart Hospital ran lab tests on 1,923 people who had flu-like symptoms. Of those, 546 tested positive for influenza. Since the beginning of December, the Sacred Heart Urgent Care Center in Pensacola has seen 186 people with flu-like symptoms.
The Florida Department of Health in continuing to encourage residents to get the flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control says at this point in the flu season, the vaccine may be harder to find that it was back in the fall. Residents may, the CDC said, need to contact more than one provider such as pharmacies or doctors in order to find available vaccine.
“It is not too late to get vaccinated against the flu, and we encourage anyone age six months and older to get a flu shot,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John
Armstrong. “Influenza A is the most common flu type in Florida this season and is countered by the vaccine.”
The flu vaccine this season is overall 62 percent effective, according to CDC data released Friday. That means patients that were vaccinated were about 60 percent less likely to get the flu that required a visit to the doctor.
The Florida Department of Health recommends said residents should watch for symptoms of the flu, such as headache, fever, a severe cough, runny nose or body aches. Contact your primary care physician or a local hospital immediately if symptoms appear. This is particularly important for people at high risk for serious complications from flu.For those with the flu, antiviral medication may shorten both the duration and severity of illness.
State health officials urge the following preventive steps for the flu:
- Get vaccinated EVERY YEAR because as the flu types change, the vaccine changes.
- 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, because germs spread this way.
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- If you are sick with flu–like illness, contact your primary care physician to determine whether you need antiviral medication. Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (except to get medical care or for other necessities).
Pictured top: A graphical representation of flu activity in the United States. Pictured inset: A patient receives a nasal flu mist flu vaccine. Courtesy images for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.