JACKSON, Miss. – The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) has received numerous reports from clinical partners throughout the state of flu-related deaths in younger adults, all of which were in patients unvaccinated against the flu.
While physicians are not required to notify MSDH of a flu diagnosis or death, the agency monitors flu activity through the Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) Sentinel Surveillance System. This system is made up of healthcare providers in Mississippi such as family practice clinics, student health centers, pediatricians, primary care physicians, and hospital emergency departments who report the percentage of patients with flu-like symptoms to a statewide database.
“All of the adult deaths that our clinical partners have reported to us have been 20-55 years of age,” said Dr. Thomas Dobbs, MSDH State Epidemiologist. “This year, the only flu strain that has been identified in Mississippi is the 2009 influenza A H1N1 strain. This year’s flu vaccination includes coverage for this particular strain, which makes it that much more important to stay protected.”
Mississippi’s flu season usually peaks in January through March, but Dobbs said it’s not too late to get the vaccination. Seasonal flu vaccinations are recommended for anyone age six months and older.
Flu vaccinations for adults and children are available for $30 at all county health department clinics. Those 18 and under who are eligible for the Vaccines for Children program or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) can receive the flu vaccination for $10. A high-dose flu vaccination for adults 65 and older is available for $55, and the pneumococcal vaccination is available for $83.
The MSDH accepts Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP and the State and School Employees’ Health Insurance Plan (AHS).
While vaccination is the best protection, basic infection control measures can also reduce the spread of flu. These measures include covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing, staying at home when you or your children are sick, and washing your hands frequently.
To locate a county health department clinic in your area or for more information on flu and pneumonia, visit the MSDH website at www.HealthyMS.com. Follow MSDH by e-mail and social media at HealthyMS.com/connect.