Oped: Take steps to avoid the flu
Flu is making an early appearance locally and throughout the state. The best protection is to get the vaccine.
Flu season is getting an early start in Alabama. Like Christmas decorations displayed in October, it just can’t seem to wait until a proper time. Not that any time is a good time for flu season.
As Alabamians know, our weather can change on a dime. One day it can be sunny and 80 degrees and the next day be miserably cold with temperatures near freezing.
With the drastic change in temperatures also comes respiratory and sinus infections and now the flu.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), parainfluenza, human rhinovirus/enterovirus and COVID are all circulating throughout the state, according to Alabama Department of Public Health.
Much of the state is already seeing an above average number of cases of influenza-like illness, and health officials fear that flu outbreaks will be especially severe this year.
That fear was justified this week when Austinville Elementary closed for last week as a result of a flu outbreak and RSV. Almost 100 students were out sick on Monday, and 17 were sent home due to illness.
The school reported that roughly 30% of staff were also out at the school with fever and other symptoms.
Schools in Alexander City and Demopolis also had to close this week due to high absenteeism.
So, there is cause for concern.
The most important thing people can do to protect themselves against the flu is get vaccinated. It’s quick, inexpensive and easy, and while the annual flu vaccine isn’t foolproof — sometimes it doesn’t match the flu strain that becomes most prevalent — it remains the best protection against a disease that sickens each year “on average, about 8% of the U.S. population … with a range of between 3% and 11%, depending on the season,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Flu shots are readily available now at most pharmacies and health care offices across the state. Some employers may offer flu vaccines to their employees, so check with your employer and see if they have scheduled a flu vaccine clinic.
To fight the flu, the Alabama Department of Public Health recommends, in part:
- Get vaccinated
- Wash your hands
- Cover your coughs and sneezes
- Stay home with fever
- Clean and disinfect
- Learn home care
- Call your doctor if symptoms get worse
- Stay informed
For more details, see alabamapublichealth.gov/flu/prevention.html.
But the most important thing is to get vaccinated, not only for yourself but for those around you who, for various reasons, may not be able to get vaccinated.