Nearly the entire state of Alabama is experiencing “widespread” flu activity, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health, indicating that flu season has entered its most virulent period.
The only part of the state that was not reporting widespread illness was Mobile County.
As the virus spreads across the state and the country, experts like Dr. Spencer Durham, assistant clinical professor and infectious disease specialist in the Auburn’s Harrison School of Pharmacy, say there is still plenty of time to get protected with a flu shot.
“Influenza season generally begins in October and can last through May, with peak activity usually between December and February,” Durham said in statement. “Patients should get vaccinated as soon as possible after the vaccine is available, and ideally prior to peak activity.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the flu shot for anyone aged 6 months and older, and especially for those who are more vulnerable to an illness, such as young children, people with cancer, HIV or other conditions, and the elderly.
Seven children have died from the flu so far this season, according to the CDC. During last year’s season, two children and as many as 145 adults died of flu-associated illness in Alabama, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.
“Severe flu outcomes are a somber reminder of how serious flu can be, even for otherwise healthy people. Flu vaccination protects against flu illness and reduces the risk of flu complications, including flu-associated hospitalization, admissions to the intensive care unit, and even death in children,” the CDC wrote.
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The latest vaccine has been updated to work better against the strains of flu circulating this year, according to Durham, who said he hopes it will provide better protection compared to the last season.
“It is important to remember that, even if a patient gets the flu after receiving the vaccine, it is not usually as severe as if the patient had not received the vaccine at all," Durham wrote. "This is one of the reasons it is so important to get vaccinated."
Flu vaccines are available at the Auburn University Medical Clinic, as well as at many area drugstores and clinics. The CDC has a tool at VaccineFinder.org to find nearby locations to get immunized.
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