The Mississippi Coast saw a spike last week in the number of people seeking medicine to treat the flu.
So says Walgreens, the national drug store chain that tracks its own data on prescriptions.
Walgreens has developed something called the flu index, and Biloxi-Gulfport popped up in last week’s data as one of the top 10 markets in the nation for increases in flu activity. That was based on a week-over-week spike in the number of people seeking flu medications.
The data, which is kept only for the chain’s biggest markets, comes on the heels of a warning earlier this month from the state Health Department that flu activity has “increased sharply” in Mississippi and the rest of the nation.
“It’s very important to get your flu shot to protect yourself and those around you from getting the flu,” said MSDH State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs. “It’s not too late, as peak season in Mississippi usually starts this month and lasts through March.”
While the Coast wasn’t in the top 10 metro areas for overall flu activity, Mississippi was in the top 10 states. This week, the Clarion Ledger reported Clinton schools saw 500 students out sick with the flu.
The predominant flu strain circulating this season is H1N1, which can particularly affect children.
Mississippi has already seen one pediatric flu death this season.
“Remember that 80 percent of pediatric flu deaths last year were in children who were not vaccinated against the flu,” said Dobbs. “With school starting back after the holidays, now is an optimal time to make sure your child, as well as your entire family, has gotten their flu shots.”
Carlin Necaise, a nurse and infection preventionist at Memorial Hospital at Gulfport, said her facility saw a reduced number of flu cases in December 2018, as compared to December 2017, but sometimes the flu does not peak until February or March.
Flu shots are recommended for all those 6 months and older.
Basic measures, such as covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing, staying at home when you or your children are sick, and washing your hands frequently also can help prevent the spread of flu.