BY JAMES HARPER
Even though many areas across the country are experiencing an early flu season with high levels of influenza-like illnesses, Volusia County’s Health Department Director says that is not the case in Daytona Beach.
“We are seeing mild flu activity in Volusia County,” said Dr. Bonnie J. Sorensen, director of the Volusia County Health Department.
According to the Center for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) website, nationwide “some key flu activity indicators continued to rise, while others fell. It’s too soon to say exactly what this means; but some regions may have peaked, while other parts of the country are still on the upswing.”
The range of flu activity can range from high, moderate, mild to no activity.
Not too late for flu vaccine
“Since we know the flu is here, we encourage residents and visitors to take the proper precautions and get vaccinated against influenza. It is not too late to get a flu shot,” Sorensen said.
The Volusia County Health Department is offering the flu vaccine at its health centers in Daytona Beach, DeLand, New Smyrna Beach and Deltona.
“Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses,” said Dr. Celeste Philip, assistant director of the local health department.
“It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Getting a flu vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease,” Philip continued.
The price for flu vaccine is $25. The health department accepts Medicare Part B, non–HMO for those who qualify.
Increase in hospitalizations
Sorensen said the department also has a program that might help others who may not be able to afford the $25.
“Our three health taxing districts collect dollars to pay for indigent care so any individuals already connected into those medical homes can go there. We provide flu shots to the pregnant moms who receive maternity care in our clinics regardless of ability to pay,” she said.
The CDC reports that since Oct. 1, 2012, there have been 3,710 laboratory confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations reported nationwide. This is an increase of 1,443 hospitalizations from the previous week. This translates to a rate of 13.3 influenza-associated hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the United States.
Influenza-associated hospitalizations are highest among people 65 and older. Of the 3,710 influenza-associated hospitalizations that have been reported this season, 46 percent have been among people 65 and older.
All persons age 6 months and older are urged to get vaccinated annually.
For more information on getting a flu vaccine, call 386-274-0636.