Mississippi sees annual flu spike
Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 23:01
Over the winter break, Mississippi saw a spike in cases of the flu. Though most flu seasons see a large spike followed by a steady decline in cases, there is still a chance for a statewide relapse, with much of the nation still dealing with widespread outbreaks.
The 2012-2013 season has proven to be different than the last two years, with a large increase of people with flu-like symptoms fairly early in the season, and most years’ cases peaking in late January or February. This sudden increase has caused shortages in flu vaccines in certain areas of the country, according to Health Day and the Los Angeles Times.
Even with a majority of states reporting widespread cases of flu, Mississippi is one of the three states with the virus affecting only specific regions of their borders.
“The South was hit early,” said Thomas Dobbs, state epidemiologist and the district health officer for Hattiesburg.
Mississippi started to see a sharp rise in flu cases in late October and early November. Since then, this season has been classified as “severe.”
“The flu season is unpredictable,” Dobbs said. “There is a lot that goes into it.”
One contributing factor to widespread instances of the flu is a lack of people getting vaccinated. Currently, about one in three Mississippians have gotten the shot that protects against that season’s most common versions of the flu, leaving people vulnerable to only the rarer strains.
“It’s not perfect, but it works,” Dobbs said.
Despite national shortages, flu shots are still readily available in Forrest County.
“If you start to feel ill and think you have the flu, come and see us,” said Ashley Threatt, a health educator and assessment officer at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Though it would have been more effective to get the flu shot about four months ago, Threatt still recommends getting the vaccination because of the likelihood of contracting the virus by being in proximity to someone already infected.
“The university setting is different from most places,” Threatt said. “You aren’t going to sit next to a person at Walmart for a hour and a half.”
In addition to improving the immune system with these vaccinations, Threatt suggested taking medicines such as Tamiflu and Mucinex to help deal with this upper respiratory disease. These medicines are available through the USM clinic, as well as testing for potential diseases with a starting price of $15.