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It’s safe to say… happy flu season Alabama!

Flu vaccines are a must this month, especially because the number of cases in Birmingham is expected to peak in December. According to the influenza coordinator in Jefferson County Bill Arnold, the baseline percent of sickness reported by doctors has increased to 2% for the first time. Typically, a rate of 2.37% of illnesses reported by doctor’s offices have had flu-like symptoms.

As this percentage continues to rise, preventative measures, such as a flu shot, become more crucial. In December 2014, flu activity peaked at about 20%. This high percentage is due to the fact that last year’s vaccine was not effective in treating that specific strain. Arnold says that this year’s vaccine has proven effective in treating the current strain up to this point.

Also, there is an extra measure patients have available to prevent the flu, which is to ask for a “quadrivalent;” this is a high-dose, four-way vaccine that includes an extra strain of influenza B.

A flu vaccine in Texas is thought to have caused the recent blindness and paralysis of a young girl, but the Center for Disease Control reports that acute effects can occur in one out of one million cases. In 2013, the Alabama Department of Public Health recorded more than 1,000 deaths from influenza or pneumonia, compared to 1 in 2014 and 1 so far in 2015. Basically, it is better to receive a vaccination than avoid it because of this microscopic percent chance of a bad reaction.

The benefits of preventing the flu by getting vaccinated are lowering your chances of being stuck in bed having to miss work and important events. The Center for Disease Control says that vaccination is the best method of prevention for those 6 months of age or older. Take a look at other ways the CDC says will help prevent the flu:

* Avoid contact with sick people

* If you are sick, avoid contact with others

* If you are sick, stay home for at least 24 hours after fever subsides, except to get medical attention

* Cover your mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and properly dispose of the tissue

* Wash hands regularly with soap and water

* Clean and disinfect regularly used surfaces

* Take antibiotics exactly as prescribed

Click here for more preventative methods, provided by the Center for Disease Control.

Happy Flu Season! Stay healthy, folks.

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