Alabama has worst flu season since 2009, health officials say
MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – During COVID-19, the flu took a break.
Now he’s back with a vengeance and strikes with a ferocity not seen since 2009.
“These are the highest numbers we’ve seen since the H1N1 pandemic, which also peaked very early,” said Dr. Wes Stubblefield, district medical officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health. “These numbers have been increasing week by week since we started tracking about three to four weeks ago.”
So far, Stubblefield said, three adults and one child have died of the flu in Alabama.
Mobile County Health Officer Dr. Kevin Michaels said influenza, respiratory syncytial virus and flu-like illnesses are far above what they were at the heart of COVID-19 and even beyond the pre-COVID baseline. This is especially true among young people, he added.
“What we’ve seen since around the July period is that a lot of kids have a flu-like illness, basically a cough, a cold, a sore throat, a fever and they show up – increased numbers are presenting to the emergency room, urgent care clinics and their primary care clinics throughout the community,” he said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alabama is one of seven states, plus the District of Columbia, with the highest levels of influenza activity in the nation.
“The South has been hit pretty hard,” Stubblefield said. “Alabama, Tennessee and Florida have all been hit hard by the flu.”
Stubblefield said he had increased hospitalizations – but far from what they experienced during the worst of COVID. He said there were about 240 flu patients statewide and another 200 with COVID-19. By comparison, the state had some 3,000 COVID patients during the peak of the omicron variant.
“I know our children’s hospitals are full because of the flu and RSV cases we’ve seen,” he said. “So it was a pressure for them.”
This was also the case in Mobile.
Deborah Browning, acting administrator at the University of South Alabama Children’s and Women’s Hospital, told FOX10 News in a statement that the hospital “remains very busy at this time, and we are doing everything we can to accommodate to the needs of our community. The status of our bed changes from day to day.”
Stubblefield said the flu surge also had an impact on medication. He pointed to a nationwide shortage of amoxicillin, particularly the powder form used to make medicine for children. He said he had also heard of problems finding Tamiflu.
Michaels said the same common-sense advice applies to avoiding the flu — wash your hands, stay home when sick, and get the flu shot. Stubblefield said evaluations of flu vaccine effectiveness in any given year are usually not done until the spring. But he said he said early signs are encouraging.
As to why the flu is hitting hard this year, Stubblefield said it’s unclear. He also said there was no good explanation for why he hit Alabama harder than most of the rest of the country.
“It is inevitable that we come into contact with respiratory viruses,” he said.
Michaels said the resurgence of the flu was only partly the inevitable result of the return to normalcy after COVID.
“I think with the lifting…of COVID prevention measures, like masking, hand washing, social distancing, you know, it let a lot of people go back into the community,” he said. declared.
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