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Delay offers chance for flu shots

By M.J. Ellington · (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — There couldn’t be a better time to get a flu shot.

The reason is that the pesky virus is not in Alabama yet. If you get vaccinated now, you’ll build immunity before the season strikes.

“Flu is late this year,” said Katina James, an epidemiologist in charge of influenza surveillance at the Alabama Department of Pubic Health.

“Last year flu started in the Southeast,” she added. “This year it struck first in Hawaii and spread to California.”

The most recent weekly influenza report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta shows no cases in Alabama. The same is true for Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and South Carolina. Florida has locally recorded flu cases.

But if your Thanksgiving travel plans call for going to the West Coast, Texas or Louisiana, you may run into the pesky bug. Those states have sporadic outbreaks.

Flu, with its aches, fever and respiratory symptoms, usually hits Alabama between December and March. Travel during Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays may bring the bug closer faster.

State Health Officer Dr. Don Williamson said Alabama expects to have adequate supplies of flu vaccine the whole season for the first time in several years.

Flu is nothing to sneeze at, Williamson added.

“On average, 200,000 people are hospitalized and approximately 36,000 people die each year in the United States from complications associated with influenza,” he said.

Williamson encouraged everyone from 6 months through adulthood to get immunized unless they have a medical reason not to get the vaccine.

The 2007 vaccine protects against A Solomon Islands, A Wisconsin and B Malaysia strains of flu.

Area public health clinics have held flu shot clinics, but some still have vaccine. Many private health providers still have the vaccine as well.

Stop the flu

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

  • If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands.

  • Put your used tissue in the wastebasket.

  • Clean your hands after coughing or sneezing.

  • Wash with soap and water or alcohol-based hand cleaner.

    Numbers to call

  • Lawrence County Health Department at 974-1141.

  • Limestone County Health Department at 232-3200.

  • Morgan County Health Department at 353-7021.

  • Alabama Department of Public Health, toll free at (800) 469-4599.

    Alabama Department of Public Health

    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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