Fighting the Flu: What you need to know before flu season peaks

Published: Nov. 17, 2015 at 3:40 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 25, 2015 at 3:50 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Every year, up to 20% of Americans get sick with the flu.  Flu causes more than 200,000 hospitalizations and thousands of deaths each year.

The CDC estimates about 44% of American adults get the flu vaccine, and about 59% of kids get it. But the flu still takes an
economic toll. More than $10 Billion a year are spent in direct medical costs associated with the flu.

Flu season generally runs October - May, peaking in Alabama in December in January.

"People tend to be getting together, and you know congregating," Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Department of Public Health explained about the spike. "We start seeing some flu activity early in the fall, and then as people congregate more for holiday seasons or gathering around the TV to watch football playoffs, things of that that nature, there's more group activity, people are together more, they're sharing an enclosed space, you're not outside playing and doing all the things you're doing in spring and summer, you're inside trying to keep warm. I think that's one of the things – the human factor. We've got the disease, and then we've got the closed in area where they can contract that."

Cases are already starting to pop up.

"I've seen more cases in Prattville area, and some scattered cases in Montgomery," said Christina Anderson, with American Family Care. She encourages families and employers to put together "fight the flu" kits, to prevent the flu virus from spreading.

Those kits should contain paper towels, hydrogen peroxide disinfectant, hand sanitizer, and plenty of pens so everyone can have a few of his own without having to share and spread germs.

The best defense against the flu is the vaccine.  Health officials said it's never too late to get the flu vaccine, and it's never too early after the vaccine becomes available.

Landers said there's no shortage of the vaccine this year, but there have been delays in shipments of the nasal mist. She recommends NOT waiting out the delay, and getting the vaccine earlier in whatever form it's available.

People who have the flu often have fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue. some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, but this is more common in children than adults.

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