This flu season has caused a major influx of patients at medical facilities across the state of Alabama. Birmingham-area hospitals are reaching or already over capacity in response to the recent outbreak of the illness.
Jefferson County Health Department Officer Dr. Mark Wilson addressed the increase in local flu cases during a press conference on Jan. 10. Wilson said that while the outbreak is not severe enough to be considered a pandemic, it is a significant “seasonal flu situation.”
Delphene Hobby-Noland, Manager of Infection Prevention and Control at Children’s of Alabama, said that the answer to avoiding the flu is as simple as taking basic precautionary steps.
“The two biggest preventative measures you can take are to get your annual flu immunization and to wash your hands,” Hobby-Noland said. “Our hands are the primary way that we transmit germs.”
Hobby-Noland said that those most susceptible to the flu are children and the elderly because their immune systems tend to be weaker. Children under the age of 5, especially those younger than 2 years old, are particularly more likely to suffer from flu-related complications. These complications include pneumonia, dehydration, worsening of long-term medical problems like heart disease or asthma, swelling in the brain, sinus problems and ear infections. Children younger than 6 months cannot receive the flu shot, meaning that it is important for everyone who is of age to be immunized, especially caregivers and parents of young children. There is still time to get the flu shot. While the shot does not cover all strains of the flu, it can shorten or cause the case to be less severe even if someone does get the illness.
Other preventative measures involve disinfecting commonly used surfaces, as well as encouraging children to cover their mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and to avoid touching their faces.
The Jefferson County Health Department encourages people experiencing milder flu-like symptoms to stay at home or call their personal doctor instead of going to the hospital. This helps to prevent further overcrowding, risking exposure to more serious illnesses and spreading the flu.
Common symptoms of the flu include:
- Fever or feeling feverish with chills, though not all people with the flu will have a fever
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Vomiting and diarrhea, which are more common in children
For more information, visit https://www.childrensal.org/.