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A few flu reminders for Alabamians

You’re no doubt aware that Alabama is experiencing widespread influenza (flu) activity, and hospitals are at or over normal patient capacity. The Alabama Department of Public Health says it is not a pandemic flu situation, but a major seasonal flu situation.

Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency on Thursday, in part to raise awareness of the situation, but to also allow hospitals flexibility to handle the increased patient load.

Significant flu activity is likely to continue for 11-13 more weeks, says Dr. Dan Jernigan, director of the influenza division in the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

“Vaccination is our main tool to prevent influenza infection, and CDC recommends that vaccination efforts continue as long as influenza viruses are circulating,” Jernigan said in a press conference last week.

The Alabama Department of Public Health says that people with mild to moderate flu or flu-like symptoms should not go to a doctor’s office without calling first, and they should not go to the emergency room. Call your doctor to see if you may be eligible for antiviral medications without an appointment.

Many insurance companies have a “call a provider” service to help with mild to moderate illnesses; people who are sick are urged to take advantage of this service.

Employers and schools that require doctor excuses for absences have been asked to waive this requirement during this time, to encourage those who are sick to stay home and not spread disease.

Worth repeating:

Flu is different from a cold – flu usually comes on suddenly, with some or all of these symptoms: fever or feeling feverish, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and some may have vomiting or diarrhea (though that is more common in children than adults).

Remember the “fight the flu” actions:

Get the flu vaccine, it’s not too late; stay home if you have a fever; wash your hands; cover your cough and sneeze; clean and disinfect; and learn home care.