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Flu activity continues to increase

Lazaro Aleman: Greene Publishing, Inc.

Flu activity remains high in Florida and continues to increase, according to the latest bulletin from the Florida Department of Health (FDOH).

In its summary report for the week of Jan. 14-20, the department noted that flu activity was high and continued to increase sharply, putting it above the peak activity of previous flu seasons. The department also reported that the increases were observable in all age groups and across all regions of the state, with the panhandle continuing to experience the largest increases in flu activity.

In Madison County, County Health Department (CHD) Administrator Kimberly Allbritton reports that in the previous 30 days ending on Thursday, Jan. 25, Madison County reported 11 confirmed cases of influenza, with type A being the most common.

“Most of the 11 were infants up to age six or between the ages of 47 and 57 years old,” said Allbritton. “This is an increase over the previous 30 days.”

She listed among the Madison County Health Department's community outreach activities: Distributing flu advice and prevention information to schools, daycare centers, preschools, primary care providers, OB/GYNs, hospitals, nursing homes, EMS services, correctional facilities, Healthy Start prenatal clients, pharmacies and community partners. “The outreach effort continues,” said Allbritton. Communicating with the Madison County schools information and guidance on outbreak control measures such as: vaccination, surveillance, personal hygiene, cleaning and disinfecting, etc., that should be implemented to prevent or reduce infections. Providing vaccinations last week to faculty and staff at Greenville, Lee and Pinetta Elementary Schools, James Madison Preparatory High School and Madison Creative Arts Academy. Arrangements have also been made to provide vaccinations to faculty and staff at Madison County High School, Madison County Central School and the district office.

Statewide, the FDOH reports that visits to emergency departments from pregnant women and adults 65 and older have increased sharply and well exceed the peak activity in previous flu seasons. Pregnant women and persons 65 and older are among those at high risk of being infected or suffering severe complications from influenza.

The department reports that as of the week ending on Saturday, Jan. 20, the state had 159 outbreaks of influenza and influenza-like illness (ILI) since the start of the season, which is more than in previous seasons. Ninety-three percent of the outbreaks, according to the FDOH, occurred in facilities that serve children and adults 65 or older.

The department reports a total of three influenza-associated pediatric deaths confirmed thus far. It further notes that although deaths due to influenza are increasing, they remain within normal limits, but increased deaths are expected in the coming weeks. Health officials advise that people who experience flu symptoms stay home until they are fever-free for at least two hours without use of fever-reducing medications. They further advise that people employ good hand-washing practices. They underscore that flu vaccines are the best way to combat influenza infection and reduce its serious complications.

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