Calhoun County still has widespread flu activity that began a month ago, while deaths from the disease continue to rise across Alabama and the nation, recent reports state.
The Alabama Department of Public Health is currently investigating 98 potential flu-related deaths, up from 87 deaths last week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday reported another 22 flu-related pediatric deaths nationwide, for a total 84 child deaths for the season. Meanwhile, the county Health Department reports that it still has flu vaccine available, but at least one area pharmacist says he ran out of shots weeks ago.
The ADPH reports that the flu is widespread in 66 of the state’s 67 counties.
According to the CDC, for the week ending Feb. 10, the proportion of people seeing their health care provider for flu-like illness was 7.5 percent, which is above the national baseline of 2.2 percent.
So far, two people with Calhoun County ties have died from reportedly flu-related illness this year.
The CDC states that the flu vaccine is still the best way to prevent infection, even though it’s only 36 percent effective this year — weaker than in previous years.
Carrie Johnson, nurse manager at the Calhoun County Health Department, said Friday that her office still had flu shots available to the public, free of charge.
“The numbers of people we’ve given the flu shot to have increased in the last few weeks since there’s been reports of deaths in the news,” Johnson said. “But we do still have vaccine and at this time we don’t anticipate running out.”
Chris Martin, owner of Martin’s Pharmacy, which has locations in Anniston and Oxford, said his stores sold out of flu vaccine three weeks ago.
“Only a certain amount of flu vaccine is made each year and you have to pre-order it ... we bought ours based on how much we sold last year,” Martin said.
Martin said his pharmacies still had vaccine left over last year. Martin added that his pharmacies had seen a surge of customers buying Tamiflu, an antiviral medication that treats flu symptoms.
“We have sold a lot of Tamiflu ... it was really bad in January,” Martin said. “I haven’t seen a flu season this bad in the last six years.”
Chase Thomas, a nurse practitioner and owner of Pediatrics Plus in Anniston, said this is the worst flu season he’s seen in years.
“We’re doing about 100 or more flu treatments a day,” Thomas said. “We’ve been opening up on the weekends to help out some folks and to keep people out of the urgent care centers and emergency rooms.”
Thomas noted that even though the flu vaccine is still effective, parents and their children should still get it since some protection is better than none.
“What I’ve seen from our kids, of the ones that come in sick, about 70 percent didn’t get a flu shot,” Thomas said. “That tells me the vaccine is working.”