EDITOR'S NOTE: Everyone is talking about the flu. It's gotten so bad in Alabama that Governor Kay Ivey has issued a state public health emergency. And the flu seems to have affected many people not just in Alabama, but in Mississippi and across the nation. WTVA’s Mike Russell looked into the scope of this season's flu outbreak, and filed this report.
TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) - There’s no question the the flu is having an impact on the country this winter. The strength of the outbreak is reflected by the number of stories we’ve done about it so far this season. In the latest flu map, the Centers for Disease Control says that all but four states are experiencing widespread flu activity. And even those four are impacted.
Across the city, more people than normal have gotten the flu. It kills as many as 56,000 Americans every year, and it puts hundreds of thousands in the hospital.
And speaking of the hospital. Across the nation, including Tupelo, there's a shortage of saline and other solutions that are used to re-hydrate flu victims. The main supplier for North Mississippi Medical Center is in Puerto Rico. That supplier was short on inventory to begin with. Then Hurricane Maria hit late last September, destroying production lines. And now, a larger than normal demand, thanks to the flu. Tina Stevens is the Clinical Resource Manager for the hospital. It's her job to make sure there are enough IV bags to go around.
"This area has been hit hard by the flu," she says. "Typically, we do see dehydration in our flu patients -- and that must be treated with the sterile IV solutions."
"We are seeing volumes than normal with influenza, says Dr. Malinda Prewitt, who works in Infectious Diseases for the North Mississippi Medical Center. "We are also seeing family members who have it, staff who have it, and we've had higher than normal mortality rates this year."
At Tupelo Schools, assistant superintendent Kim Britton says school attendance was down on Wednesday 4% to 91%, thanks to the flu. She urges parents to keep children home if they show any signs of the sickness.
So the flu outbreak is strong and seems to be having far-reaching effects. Ultimately, of course, it will let up and we’ll all move on. In the meantime, doctors say, it’s still not too late to get a flu vaccination.
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