Flu cases on the rise with the first death of the season in Florida

- The Florida Department of Health reports the first flu death of the 2017-2018 season.

According to the most recent flu report from the state, the death was a child without known underlying health conditions who hadn’t been vaccinated for the flu. 

The report Tuesday also showed flu cases in the state on the rise; faster than Florida’s seen since the 2014-2015 season. 

The entire state is now listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as being in the “local” influenza activity level. That’s one of the lower levels, but one local doctors said we usually don’t hit for at least a few more weeks.

In the past two seasons the flu has peaked in Florida around Valentine’s Day, but Dr. Tim Hendrix with Centra Care said the current trends look eerily similar to that 2014 season.

"When we saw the rise and it peaked right at Christmas time,” said Hendrix.

Hendrix said his Centra Care clinics are currently seeing more than triple the flu cases they saw at this time last year; about 188 cases per week.

An epidemiologist with the Orange County Health Department said Tuesday that activity is slightly higher than normal; the state listing the county among 7 to hit the “moderate” activity level. He said it’s possible that this could be a sign of an early flu season, but that it’s not unusual to have fluctuations in the weekly data either.

Either way, the Department as well as Dr. Hendrix said the best advice for the public is to get vaccinated now.

"Trying to get people to get in and get their shots before the flu actually shows up, because once it's here: you're at risk,” said Hendrix.

Hendrix said the shot takes about 2 weeks to work and, if the flu is peaking around the holidays, getting the shot now would be the best defense against being sick around family and friends. He said the shot seems to be a good match for the strains of the flu hitting.

December 3-9 is, ironically, National Influenza Vaccine Week.

The full report from the Florida Department of Health can be viewed HERE.

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