Flu season could be peaking in Alabama, particularly in the southeast. Based on state and national statistics, children seem to be especially susceptible to contracting the illness this year, as compared to years past.
A recent report by the Alabama Department of Public Health shows a sharp increase in flu cases in the last week of January, after rates of influenza-like illness cases dropped in the first two weeks of 2020.
In fact, flu cases in Alabama rose to 9.04% last week, a 41% increase compared to the week before. The trend is true nationwide as well, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In the week ending Feb. 1, 43 influenza or influenza-like illness outbreaks were reported. One outbreak caused the entire Opp City Schools system to close for two days last week shortly after another western Alabama school system closed. Several other schools closed as well.
Southeastern Alabama continues to be hit the hardest, with 12.6% of all doctor visits due to influenza-like illness; that means about 1 in 8 patients were seen for flu-related symptoms from Jan. 25 to Feb. 1.
“Overall, hospitalization rates nationally remain similar to what has been seen at this time during recent seasons, but rates among children and young adults are higher at this time than in recent seasons,” the state Health Department reports.
The CDC noted that 53% of flu-positive specimens reported by public health laboratories were among people younger than 25, and only 12% were from those age 65 or older.
Of the 68 influenza-associated national pediatric deaths reported to CDC during the 2019-20 season, 66% were associated with influenza B viruses, of which eight had a lineage determined; all were B/Victoria viruses. Thirty-four percent were associated with influenza A; of the 13 that were subtyped, all were A (H1N1) viruses.
Fourteen influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported nationwide during week ending Jan. 25.
No influenza-associated pediatric deaths this flu season have been reported in Alabama.
In the six years before this flu season, activity peaked 15 times in February, although it can last as late as May.
Health officials continue to advise people who have the flu to stay home until fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications like Tylenol and Motrin. Officials also urge them to wash their hands frequently with soap and water.
It’s also not too late to get the flu shot at a local pharmacy.
Chalk Talk, an education notebook compiled by education beat reporter Sable Riley, appears in the Dothan Eagle and at DothanEagle.com