Now in peak season for influenza in our region, the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) is currently seeing high flu activity in the state with widespread transmission.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates a total of 29 million infections nationally this year with 280,000 hospitalizations. There have been an estimated 16,000 flu-related deaths in the U.S. this year, including an increase in the proportion of pediatric deaths.
“Overall, the number of hospitalizations nationwide are about average for this time of the year. However, the rates among children and young adults are higher than in previous seasons,” said MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers.
“Children are especially susceptible to complications from the flu, especially those younger than 5 years old,” said Dr. Byers. “Fortunately, we have not seen any pediatric deaths in Mississippi this year, but there have been 105 flu-related deaths in children nationwide so far this year. That is abnormally high for this time of the season. “
MSDH recommends flu vaccination for anyone ages 6 months and older.
“We recommend getting vaccinated now if you haven’t already. Influenza vaccine is especially important for young children, pregnant women, those over 65, and those with underlying health problems,” said Dr. Byers. “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 available at all Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) county clinics.
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 widely available through private physicians, pharmacies and retail centers.
Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle and body aches, and fatigue.
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.