Mississippi Public Health Lab Confirms First Flu Case of 2016-2017 Season

By STAFF REPORTS,

The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) is reporting its first case of influenza (flu) confirmed in the Mississippi Public Health Laboratory for the 2016-2017 flu season. The patient is from Central Mississippi.

This is the first case of the 2016-2017 flu season detected through MSDH’s influenza surveillance system, a part of which identifies representative flu cases across the state. Healthcare providers also do their own flu testing.

“This not only indicates that flu is present in the state, but it also serves as a reminder that now is the time to get your flu shot if you haven’t done so already,” said MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers. “The flu shot takes one to two weeks to produce immunity, and flu season usually peaks in January through March in Mississippi.”

Nationwide, an estimated 3,000-49,000 people die and more than 200,000 are hospitalized each year because of the flu.

While individual flu cases are not reported to MSDH, the agency monitors flu activity through the Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) Sentinel Surveillance System, made up of healthcare providers in Mississippi who report the percentage of patients with flu-like symptoms to a statewide database. Healthcare providers participating in the system also submit respiratory samples for flu testing to the MSDH Public Health Laboratory. MSDH uses this information to determine the presence and spread of flu throughout the state. The confirmed influenza case in the Public Health Laboratory was tested through this sentinel surveillance system.

Starting this year, adult flu vaccine will no longer be offered at county health department clinics except for those who are underinsured or uninsured and who meet certain high-risk criteria.

“Flu shots for insured adults are now widely available through private physicians and pharmacies, and the number of doses we were administering in our clinics has declined. However, we do encourage all Mississippians six months and older to get vaccinated. Those particularly at risk for influenza complications include young children, adults 65 and older, pregnant women, and those with chronic illnesses,” said Dr. Byers.

However, those 18 and under can receive their flus shot at any county health department. Those who are eligible for the Vaccines for Children program or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) can receive flu vaccination for $10. Insurance, Medicaid and CHIP is accepted for children’s flu shots.

While vaccination is the best protection, basic infection control measures can also reduce the spread of flu and should be taken whether or not individuals are vaccinated. These measures include covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing, staying at home when you or your children are sick, and washing your hands frequently.

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/flu.