It’s not too late to get your flu shot! Flu season may have started slowly, but we are now seeing increased influenza activity throughout the U.S. and Florida, particularly in children. Increased activity in children typically comes ahead of increased influenza activity in other age groups.

This is a 3-dimensional illustration showing the different features of an influenza virus, including the surface proteins hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA)/CDC
This is a 3-dimensional illustration showing the different features of an influenza virus, including the surface proteins hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA)/CDC

“It is crucial for Floridians to get vaccinated to help protect themselves and others from influenza,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong. “Floridians who do contract influenza should seek medical care early in the course of illness because medications exist that can reduce the number of days spent with the flu.”

The Florida Department of Health continues to urge residents to reduce their risk of severe outcome from infection by getting vaccinated against influenza. It is not too late to get vaccinated. The flu vaccine is safe and remains the best way to protect yourself and others from the flu.

All individuals six months of age and older should receive the flu vaccine every year. The flu vaccine is offered in many locations, including doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments, retail stores, pharmacies, health centers and by many employers and schools. Click here to search for a flu vaccine location.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has received reports of poor outcomes from influenza infection, particularly in unvaccinated people. Clinicians are reminded to use antiviral medication to treat suspected influenza in high-risk patients, those with progressive disease, and all hospitalized patients as soon as possible as these medications are most effective when administered early.

This is particularly important for individuals at high risk of severe complications from influenza, such as:

  • People 65 years of age and older;
  • Pregnant women;
  • Children under the age of 5;
  • Immunocompromised individuals; and
  • People with chronic medical conditions.

Antiviral use is also important for prevention for people who have been vaccinated for less than two weeks and for unvaccinated people caring for those at high risk such as employees of hospitals, clinics and nursing homes.

The latest Flu Summary from the Florida DOH:

• Florida reported “regional” activity to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in week 6.

• The flu season is now underway. There has been an increase in reported outbreaks and a notable increase in emergency department (ED) and urgent care center (UCC) ILI visits in the East and South East regions of Florida in all age groups.

• Influenza activity in Florida often peaks in late January and February. After a slow start to the flu season, current activity levels are consistent with those historic trends.

• The preliminary estimated number of deaths due to pneumonia and influenza is similar to levels seen in previous seasons at this time.

• In week 6, thirteen counties reported “moderate” activity and 43 counties reported “mild” activity.

• Forty-three counties reported “increasing” activity in week 6.

One influenza-associated pediatric death was reported in week 6 in an unvaccinated Monroe county resident.

• Three influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported so far this season. While rare, Florida receives reports of influenza-associated pediatric deaths each season. Annual vaccination remains the best way to protect children against the flu.

• In week 6, one influenza outbreak was reported in a Polk County elementary school and three ILI outbreaks were reported: one in a Hillsborough County childcare facility, one in a Lee County assisted living facility, and one in a Pinellas County assisted living facility.

• In recent weeks, influenza A 2009 (H1N1) has been the most commonly identified influenza subtype by the Bureau of Public Health Laboratories (BPHL).