As flu rates rise, Team APG urged to stay alert

Dr. Mark A. Lovell, chief of preventative medicine and occupational medicine at the Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic

Health officials at Aberdeen Proving Ground urge Team APG to remain proactive for the duration of the flu season, as the number of cases is greater than in years past.

Dr. Mark A. Lovell, chief of preventative medicine and occupational medicine at Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic, said outpatient visits for the flu are about 20 percent higher than the previous flu season.

Lovell said it’s hard to pinpoint why flu rates are higher this year, as each year the influenza virus that circulates changes its makeup.

Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic will host a town hall and offer flu vaccinations noon to 1 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 15, at a location to be determine. Information will be posted on the APG Facebook site and and an installation-wide email will be sent out when the information is finalized.

In recent weeks, influenza deaths have increased, nationwide. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, there were 852 influenza related deaths in the second week of 2018, compared to 827 deaths in the first week of 2018 and 559 in the last week of 2017.

There have been 14,676 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations reported between Oct. 1, 2017 and Jan. 27, 2018 – a rate of 51.4 per 100,000 people – according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Widespread flu activity has been reported in 49 of 50 states and Puerto Rico during the 2017-18 flu season.

While the CDC recommends getting an annual flu vaccine by the end of October, it is not too late to get one now or as the flu season progresses. While each year is different, peak flu season typically ends around the end of March, Lovell said. Flu vaccines protect against the viruses that research suggests will be most common.

“The vaccine can still be beneficial if you haven’t received the vaccine,” he said. “The influenza virus circulates year-round. This is just the peak season for it.”

The CDC does not recommend using a nasal spray vaccine during the 2017-18 season because of concerns about its effectiveness.

Preventative measures include receiving the vaccination, covering one’s mouth while coughing, proactive hand-washing and taking antiviral medications, he said.

A fever, malaise and body aches are symptoms of the flu that typically aren’t symptoms of the common cold, Lovell said.