The Mississippi State Department of Health is reporting widespread flu activity throughout the state.
Flu activity is monitored through the Influenza-like Illness (ILI) Sentinel Surveillance System, made up of healthcare providers in Mississippi such as family practice clinics, student health centers, pediatricians, primary care physicians, and hospital emergency departments that report the percentage of patients with flu-like symptoms to a statewide database.
MSDH uses this information to determine the spread of influenza in the state. Healthcare providers also submit respiratory samples for influenza testing to the Mississippi Public Health Laboratory (PHL). Since the beginning of flu season in October, all positive samples reported by the PHL are influenza B.
“Through our sentinel system, we know that seasonal influenza is now geographically widespread in Mississippi,” said Acting State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers. “So far, testing performed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that the types of flu causing illness this season are a good match with this year’s flu vaccine. There is still time to get the flu shot before peak season hits in January through March.”
Those particularly at risk for influenza complications include young children, adults 50 and older, pregnant women, and those with chronic illnesses. The vaccine is recommended for everyone six months of age and older.
Flu vaccinations for adults are $20 at all county health departments. Those six months through 18 years can receive flu vaccinations for $10. This year, there is a new vaccine for senior adults 65 and older designed to provide increased protection against influenza infection. The senior adult vaccine is $50 but is covered by Medicare Part B. Medicare and Medicaid recipients are asked to bring their cards with them to their county clinics.
Symptoms of seasonal flu include fever, cough, and often, sore throat. Extreme fatigue, headache, muscle aches, and a runny or stuffy nose are also often present. Severe symptoms may last three to six days, and the cough may last for weeks.
While the flu vaccine is the best protection, basic infection control measures can also reduce the spread of flu. These measures include covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, staying at home when you or your children are sick, and washing your hands thoroughly and frequently.
To locate a county health department clinic in your area, visit the MSDH website at www.HealthyMS.com or call 1-866-HLTHY4U (1-866-458-4948).