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It's flu shot time: Health officials report slight rise in cases as peak season nears
Palm Beach Post - 12/2/2019
Mild flu activity has been reported for most Florida counties in recent weeks, with health officials cautioning that more cases are likely in the weeks to come as the peak of the influenza season approaches.
Sunday marked the beginning of National Influenza Vaccination Week, with those who have not already done so being urged to get their flu vaccinations. Flu activity most commonly peaks between December and February, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And that activity is expected to increase during the holiday season as people travel to visit family and friends, the CDC says.
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"We still have mild activity," Renay Rouse, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health in Martin County, said Wednesday. "We really expect to see those upticks in December, which is why people should get their flu shots. ... This is not something that's going to be a surprise. People should be protecting themselves."
More than a dozen flu outbreaks were reported statewide last week, including in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, according to the Florida Department of Health. A flu outbreak is defined as three or more cases in a short period of time at a specific location, such as a school, a daycare center or a nursing facility.
The majority of the outbreaks have occurred in places that serve children, the health department said.
Five such outbreaks have been reported in Palm Beach County public schools since October, and there have been eight overall since the beginning of the school year, said Alex Shaw, spokesman for the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County.
Shaw said the number of cases is comparable to what what was seen last year. In addition, there have been five outbreaks reported at daycare facilities and one at a private school, he said.
Martin County has had two outbreaks in its schools since the school year began in August, Rouse said. The influenza B Victoria lineage has been the most common strain identified, although it is too early to say which strain will be predominant, according to the health department.
Those at higher risk for flu-related complications include children younger than 5, adults over the age of 65, people with compromised immune systems, pregnant women and people who have existing medical conditions, such as asthma and obesity, the health department said.
The Martin County health department recently held a clinic providing free flu shots in Indiantown for uninsured and under insured patients ages 4 or older.
A similar clinic will occur from 5-7 p.m. at the health department's headquarters in Stuart on Dec. 12.
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