Flu season is starting off big in Alabama, and the Alabama Department of Public Health is urging residents to get their flu shots as soon as they can to protect themselves from the disease.
"This increased rate of flu activity is concerning because influenza can be a serious disease for anyone, including children, pregnant women, and previously healthy young adults,” said Dr. Burnestine Taylor, Medical Officer for Disease Control and Prevention for the Alabama Department of Public Health, in a press release.
In a map detailing flu activity for Alabama, virtually the entire state is designated as having "significant" flu activity. The only area not facing a flu outbreak is Mobile County.
The flu virus can cause fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue, aches and pains and other symptoms. It can be a dangerous disease for those with weakened immune systems or other illnesses.
This year's flu season is expected to be particularly rough. The News Observer reported in September that Australia, which is seen as a precursor to the American flu season, saw record high cases of flu in 2017. Part of that may be because this year's flu vaccine wasn't especially effective against the virus circulating in Australia. In fact, according to the LA Times, it only worked about 10 percent of the time.
But that doesn't mean you shouldn't get the shot, health officials say. Annual vaccines against the flu are recommended for everyone older than six months, and its especially important for those whose bodies are more vulnerable to disease.
The health department said it's important to request the "quadrivalent vaccine" when getting a flu shot in Alabama because that vaccine protects against one of the strains circulating in the state.
“It’s not too late to get a flu shot to protect against this serious disease. People become protected about two weeks after receiving the vaccine," said Dr. Taylor in the release.