Some influenza cases are being seen around the state but the real flu season for Mississippi begins next month. That means there’s still time to get vaccinated and have it take effect just like the large number of people who have taken the shot. There is no shortage of vaccine this year.
“There has been no significant amount of flu reported in our clinics so far,” said David Barber, president of North Mississippi Medical Clinics, a regional network of more than 30 physician offices throughout North Mississippi and Northwest Alabama.
He observes that more people are taking the flu shot this year. “I believe that with the increased focus and educational efforts of recent years,” he said, “there is greater awareness on the part of the public. Our clinics still have plenty of supply on hand.”
Dr. Ed Thompson, state health officer, also confirms the abundant supply of vaccine. “That’s the nice thing about this year. The health department has given more than 75,000 doses of the vaccine, plus what physicians and others have given,” he said. “There is plenty of vaccine available.”
He advises that now is the time to get the shot and get protected before the season really starts.
“We’re seeing a little bit of flu but this is not our peak time for it,” he said. “We’ve identified one type of flu this year, and it’s similar to one of the ones we had in the last few years. There are one or two types of influenza A and some B. We haven’t seen anything unusual about the flu so far this year.”
No positive lab tests for influenza have been seen this month at Memorial Hospital at Gulfport, according to Annette Biksey, registered nurse and infection control specialist.
“The latest information is that there are sporadic cases of flu in the state” she said. “We began immunizing our staff in mid-October and have increased our vaccination rate over the last year.”
She said Memorial screens patients to determine if they have received the flu vaccine, and provides it if they have not. “Our immunization van provides flu vaccine as a community service to the general population,” she added. “We will continue to provide flu vaccine throughout the flu season as long as our supply lasts.”
North Mississippi Medical Center, along with nurses from the State Department of Health, administered a total of 6,190 free flu shots November 1 during the medical center’s Live Well Health Fair. That was slightly less than last year’s record total of 6,220 flu shots given during the one-day event.
The Tupelo-based medical center also gave $20 flu shots at more than 30 medical clinics throughout north Mississippi and northwest Alabama.
Even with the availability of vaccine, Thompson said there are 36,000 deaths from flu and pneumonia each year in the nation. The number of people getting the shot and taking themselves out of the influenza picture helps determine the severity of the season.
“The vaccination can significantly reduce the chance of getting it or having serious consequences. Virtually everyone can take it,” he said. “It is especially recommended for: anyone with a medical condition that the flu will make worse; anyone over age 65 or for the most part over 50; anyone who takes medication for heart and lung disease; children up to age six; school children who are at a high risk of getting it and spreading it; and, then all others to avoid being sick and missing work.”
The Department of Health recommends practicing protective hygiene to avoid getting the flu. Preventative practices include: covering your cough; washing hands often and thoroughly; avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth; and, staying home if you’re sick.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at firstname.lastname@example.org.