ANNISTON -- Calhoun and adjacent counties have “no significant influenza activity reported” for the past three weeks, according to Alabama’s Weekly Influenza Report.
That report was prepared by the Alabama Department of Public Health, which collects data from outpatient visits to health care providers.
“At this point, we only have positive specimens from west central Alabama, which is around the Tuscaloosa area,” said Sherri Davidson, the interim state epidemiologist for the Infectious Diseases & Outbreak Division within the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Even as the numbers are lower than usual, there is a rise, she said.
“The Christmas period is usually where we start seeing more geographic spread and a higher percentage of ill individuals,” according to Davidson. The number will typically peak around December or January, but can peak as early as October or November or as late as February or March.
“We haven’t peaked yet, but the numbers seem to be slowly rising at this point,” she said. “I would expect more for this time of year, but it’s still increasing. Once you get to the holidays, you see a lot more co-mingling and people crossing state lines and such.”
There may not currently be much flu activity in Alabama, but travelers can bring the disease over state lines during their holiday travels, according to Davidson.
The CDC releases nationwide data for reported flu cases in each state, which is included in Alabama’s weekly influenza report. Each state is placed into one of four categories: high, moderate, low or minimal, based on the number of reported flu cases.
Alabama and Mississippi were marked as “low,” while Tennessee and Florida are in the “minimal” category. Travelers going to Louisiana or Georgia over the holidays may want to be wary because those states are marked as “high” in terms of flu cases.
Davidson said the number one way to prevent a flu infection is to get vaccinated. Getting a vaccination doesn’t always prevent the infection, but it can help decrease the severity of the illness. She also recommends regular hand-washing and steering clear of those who are infected.
“We love to go to sick people’s homes and bring them chicken noodle soup,” she said. “Don’t go in, just leave it at the front door and let them get it after you leave. A lot of people expect to shake hands; it’s common. We really need to be diligent because we will touch our eyes or mouths afterward. If you do shake somebody’s hand, go wash your hands really fast.”