Students are returning to Alabama schools after the holiday break, and health officials will be watching next week’s absentee reports closely to track the spread of a Type A flu outbreak that hit Alabama like a fast-moving storm in mid-December.
H1N1 Type A is the flu strain “that makes you really sick,” Madison County Health Officer Dr. Lawrence Robey said Thursday. Robey confirmed that doctors’ offices and walk-in clinics across his county have seen a surge in flu patients. But that’s actually normal, Robey said, because this is the typical flu season. “This is when you see it,” Robey said. “It’s right on time.”
Statewide, flu reports are “high” and spreading, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. The state is one of five reporting widespread flu as the official flu season gets started. The season continues through February. Read the department’s Dec. 30 statement below.
It’s not too late to get a flu shot, and the vaccines available this year do protect against the strain now spreading. It takes about two weeks after the vaccination for immunity to develop, Robey said, and it is possible to catch a milder case of the flu even after vaccination. Check local pharmacies and big box stores with in-house pharmacies to find vaccine, and expect to pay around $25 if you don’t have insurance or Medicare. “It definitely improves your odds,” the health officer said of the vaccine.
Type A is the flu same strain that caused a nationwide attack of nerves in 2009 when it was branded the “swine flu.”