Flu season later than usual

Published 9:59 am Friday, February 17, 2012

Maybe it’s because of the warmer-than-usual winter. Maybe it’s a fluke. Lawrence County health officials said Thursday the peak of the flu season is hitting later than usual.

Health officials said they have seen an increase in reported local cases of influenza over the past few weeks.

Registered nurse Mary Holtzapfel said because flu shots were available much earlier than usual this year, some people who did not get them have been lulled into thinking the danger has now passed.  She said this is not true. In fact, peaks in flu season periodically occur in the early, middle or late winter/early spring and it is impossible to predict which cycle will occur in what year.

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“As it happens, we seem to be into a later cycle this year”, she said. “The good thing is that flu vaccine is still widely available, so persons who put off getting the shot can still receive one.”

Ironton Health Commissioner Laura Brown said her office is seeing an increase in reported influenza cases as well. She wondered if there had already been flu cases earlier in the year but they were misdiagnosed as other maladies, such as sinus problems.

“But the positive tests are coming through now,” Brown said.

Health officials encourage anyone who is around a baby under 6 months of age to be immunized to prevent spread to the unprotected child. They point out influenza can be more serious and even deadly when it affects very young babies. (Babies can be immunized when they reach 6 months of age.)

Holzapfel said those who did already receive their shot do not need to repeat it, as the protection lasts throughout the full season.

In addition to the flu shot, Brown advised people to wash their hands frequently, cover coughs and sneezes and stay home when they are sick to prevent the spread of the flu to coworkers and others.

Holtzapfel said there have also been slight increases in influenza cases over the past few weeks in several states, including Kentucky and Virginia. National influenza trends can be viewed at www.cdc.gov/flu.

Those who want a flu shot can call the county health department at 532-3962 or the city health department at 532-2172.