Reporter

Number of flu cases increase statewide, but remain similar to past seasons

The number of influenza and influenza-like illnesses increased statewide from Jan. 20 to Jan. 28, but remained within similar levels as previous seasons, according to the Florida Department of Health’s weekly Flu Review outlook report.

It is possible that flu activity has peaked for the season in Florida, according to the report, but heightened activity is still expected for several more weeks.

Most counties reported mild influenza activity from Jan. 20 to Jan. 28 – or what the state considers week four of flu season.

Nine counties reported moderate influenza activity.

Osceola County is reporting increased activity of influenza-like illnesses, according to Nathaly Matos of the Osceola County Health Department.

Eight new outbreaks of the flu or similar illnesses were reported in week four, marking 81 influenza outbreaks this season.

No new influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported.

Children, especially those with underlying medical conditions, are at higher risk for complications from influenza infection, according to the health department. 

An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to help protect against flu, experts say. Vaccination has been shown to have many benefits including reducing the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and the risk of flu-related death in children.

Influenza vaccines are safe and are the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from influenza and its potentially severe complications, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Once you receive your flu shot, it takes two weeks for your body to develop antibodies that provide protection.

The Florida Department of Health in Osceola County offers flu vaccines at little to no cost. Appointments are available Monday through Friday and can be made by calling 407-343-2000.

In addition to getting vaccinated, the health department also recommends you take everyday precautions to prevent the spread of influenza and other respiratory viruses by doing the following:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water (if soap is not available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer).

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

• If you do get sick, stay home until fever-free for at least 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication).

Influenza, or the flu, is a respiratory infection caused by a variety of influenza viruses.

Most experts believe influenza viruses spread primarily by droplets made when infected people cough, sneeze or talk. Less often, a person might become infected with influenza by touching a surface or object contaminated with influenza virus and then touching their own mouth, eyes or nose.