The amount of influenza-like illnesses increased throughout the month of December in the Bolivar County area according to the Mississippi State Department of Health reports.
"The season starts in December and runs through February so you'd be protected through the traditional flu season (if you’ve been vaccinated)," said Dr. Alfio Rausa, district health officer of the Mississippi State Department of Health.
The flu vaccine lasts about six months.
Symptoms of seasonal flu include fever, cough, and often, extreme fatigue. Sore throat, headache, muscle aches, and a runny or stuffy nose are also often present. Other severe symptoms and death can also occur.
In a recent report for week 50 of district 3, which encompasses Bolivar County, the percentage rate of those reported to have influenza-like symptoms increased from 8 percent to a 13.4 percent rate.
According to the report, since week 35, the percentage of reported ILI cases has been highest among those in the 5-24 years of age group.
During week 50, the percentage of reported ILI cases continued to be highest among individuals in the 5-24 years of age group.
The 2013-14 state influenza-like illness rates were above the national, Region 4, and the state baselines for week 50.
While two influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported nationally during week 50, there have been no influenza-associated pediatric deaths in Mississippi.
According to flu.gov, flu season usually peaks in January or February, but it can occur as late as May. Early immunization is the most effective, but it is not too late to get the vaccine in December, January, or beyond.
Prices for the flu shot have risen, however, the cost is covered by many health insurance agencies.
Rausa explained that even if someone is sick or on antibiotics, they can still get the flu shot. Antibiotics are for bacteria, while the flu shot is for a virus.
"There is a high dose flu preparation particularly for people over 65. As you get older your body's ability to develop antibodies is less. The high dose has four times as much antigen, the stuff that makes you develop antibodies, in it and the side effects are not that different," said Rausa.
He also explained getting the flu shot will not cause any recipient to get the flu virus because the virus injected is dead.
"The vaccine is an attenuate virus. It's already dead," said Rausa.
For adults, the different types of vaccinations available this year are as follows: Standard seasonal flu vaccination or nasal mist for $30; Quadrivalent (four strains included rather than three) flu vaccination for $30; High-dose flu vaccination for those 65 and older for $55; and Pneumococcal vaccination for $83.
For children, standard seasonal flu vaccination or nasal mist is available for $30. Those 18 and under who are eligible for the Vaccines for Children program or the Children’s Health Insurance Program can receive the vaccination for $10.
The MSDH accepts Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP and the State and School Employees’ Health Insurance Plan.
To locate a county health department clinic in your area or for more information on flu and pneumonia, visit the MSDH website at www.HealthyMS.com.