Flu shot proves good match for this year's bug

By Michaela Gibson Morris

Daily Journal

If you got your flu shot this year, pat yourself on the back.

The flu season has been relatively mild so far this year, and kudos are because of the flu shots that many Mississippians snapped up.

This year, said Tupelo family physician Deanna Nabors, “I haven't seen anybody with the flu who got the flu shot.”

That isn't always true, because the circulating flu bug and the flu shot change from year to year.

So far, the Mississippi State Department of Health is seeing flu cases run at the low end of the normal seasonal range.

“A good match between the circulating influenza virus and the vaccine has to be credited” in part of the milder season, said state epidemiologist Dr. Mills McNeill.

No one is out of the woods just yet. In 2005, the flu peaked in mid- to late February.

“We've had a relatively light year,” McNeill said. “But we've still got six more weeks of flu season yet.”

Bubbling up

The flu is bubbling up in pockets with slightly more activity in the north half of the state, McNeill said.

Nabors was braced for the worst last week. The previous week, she had as many as six cases in a half day and her daughter's Montessori school shut down because of flu.

“Then it's kind of fizzled,” said Nabors, who sees patients at the NMMC West Tupelo Clinic.

At North Mississippi Medical Center-Tupelo, infectious disease specialist Dr. Mindy Prewitt said her staff hasn't seen an increase in the numbers of flu cases requiring hospitalization.

Even if the flu bug hasn't hit like a tidal wave, it's still highly unpleasant for those who get it. The fever, coughs, aches and general unpleasantness seem to hit people quickly, Nabors said.

If you get it, see a doctor quickly to start anti-viral medication, get plenty of rest and fluids and stay home, Nabors said.

“A lot of people think they can keep going with it,” Nabors said, “But that just makes it worse.”

CDC warning

In mid-January, the CDC issued a health alert warning about a form of the flu virus that had become resistant to amantadine, an older, common antiviral drug.

Although Mississippi hasn't been able to pinpoint any problems with resistant flu bug, they are recommending that doctors use new antiviral drugs, like Tamiflu, to avoid problems, McNeill said.

“We have to assume” the flu in Mississippi “is typical of what they're seeing nationally,” McNeill said, although the state lab can't specifically test for drug resistance.