Flu season is in full swing, 238 cases, as of Jan. 24, have been diagnosed since the second week of November 2017 in Madison County.
This count includes both influenza A and B strains, but, according to the Madison County Health Department, the numbers could be skewed due to the fact that once some doctors see the flu has arrived they do not continue to test and some patients never see a doctor.
"The biggest area we are seeing an increase in is the five to fourteen year old age group," Madison County Health Department RN/Assistant Administrator Teresa Francis said. "We had 15 cases reported last week (week ending Jan. 19) versus the previous week we had seven. Last year on the Jan. 22 report we only had three cases in that age group."
The health department compiles reports from local physician's offices, ER, lab, convenient care as well as hospitals and convenient cares outside of Madison County in order to create their reports.
According to the CDC, the severity, timing, length and spread of the flu season can not be predicted and varies from year to year.
Symptoms of the flu include cough, sore throat, runny or stuff nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, fever, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting. However, the CDC says that it is important to know that you can have the flu without having a fever.
When deciding on whether or not to go to the emergency room it is important to know the emergency warning signs of the flu before hand. This prevents going to the emergency room without the flu and leaving with it.
The CDC states that emergency warning signs in children include fast or troubled breathing, bluish skin color, not drinking enough fluids, not waking up or not interacting, being so irritable that the child does not want to be held and fever with a rash.
In addition, if infants show signs of being unable to eat, have no tears when crying and are experiencing significantly fewer wet diapers the CDC recommends taking the infant to a medical professional right away.
Signs in adults include difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting and flu-like symptoms that improve but return with fever and worse cough.
The CDC advises that most people with the flu will have a mild form of the illness and will not need medical care or antiviral drugs. They recommend that in most cases it is best to stay home and avoid contact with other people unless you are in a high risk group such as children under 5, people 65 years or older, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions.
For more information on whether or not you are considered high risk visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm
The CDC says that while you are sick you should stay away from others as much as possible and only leave home if it is medically necessary. It recommends you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the help of fever reducing medicine.
According to the CDC, flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through droplets made when people cough, sneeze or talk. Flu viruses may also be spread when people touch something with the virus on it and then touch their mouth, eyes or nose.
While it may be difficult to predict or prevent the flu, the CDC says the spread can be reduced by getting a flu vaccination every year.
In addition the following tips may help keep you from catching the flu: Avoid contact with sick people; wash your hands often with soap and water; cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze; do not reuse tissues; avoid touching your face; clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and stay home when you are sick to limit contact with others and keep to infecting them.