Flu season is upon us in Mississippi.
On Wednesday, the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) reported its first laboratory-confirmed case of influenza for the 2019-2020 flu season. The case was reported in a child under 18 years of age.
While flu cases have been diagnosed and treated by healthcare providers throughout the state already this season, this is the first case confirmed in the MSDH Public Health Laboratory, detected through the Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) Sentinel Surveillance System.
“While last year’s flu season was not particularly severe, there were still 116 pediatric flu deaths nationwide, including one child here in Mississippi,” said MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers. “Nationwide, the 2017-2018 flu season killed 183 children – three of whom were in Mississippi – and an estimated 80,000 adults. Influenza is a serious illness that should not be taken lightly.”
Dr. Byers said that flu season can occur as early as November and as late as March in Mississippi but usually peaks anywhere from December through February.
Individual flu cases are not reported to MSDH, but the agency monitors flu activity through the ILI System, made up of healthcare providers in Mississippi who report the percentage of patients with flu-like symptoms to a statewide database. Providers participating in the system also submit respiratory samples for flu testing to the MSDH lab. State health officials use this information to determine the presence and spread of flu throughout the state.
“We recommend getting vaccinated now before we reach peak flu activity. Influenza vaccine is especially important for young children, pregnant women, those over 65, and those with underlying health problems,” he said. “Flu vaccine is the best way to protect both children and adults from serious complications such as hospitalization, and in many cases, death.”
Pediatric flu shots are now available at all Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) county clinics. Seasonal flu vaccination is recommended for anyone ages six months and older to prevent the spread of flu, and more importantly, save lives.
Those 18 and under who are eligible for the Vaccines for Children program can receive a flu vaccination for $10. Insurance, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is accepted for children’s flu shots.
Adults who are underinsured or uninsured and who meet certain high-risk criteria qualify for an adult flu vaccination at MSDH county health department clinics. Flu shots for insured adults are now widely available through private physicians, pharmacies and retail centers.
Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle and body aches, and fatigue. Most people recover from the flu without complications, but nationwide there are up to 200,000 hospitalizations from flu each year.
While vaccination is the best protection, basic infection control measures can also reduce the spread of flu and should be taken whether or not individuals are vaccinated. These measures include covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing, staying at home when you or your children are sick, and washing your hands frequently.
To locate a county health department clinic in your area or for more information on flu, visit the MSDH website at www.HealthyMS.com/flu. Follow MSDH by email and social media at HealthyMS.com/connect.