By Alyssa Schnugg
Mississippi has been the hardest hit state with the highest flu activity, according to the Walgreens Flu Index; however, the number of flu cases in Lafayette County appear to be less than last year.
According to Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi, the number of people testing positive for both Flu A and B are down this year compared to a year ago.
At the Oxford hospital, 47 people have tested positive for Influenza A so far in February which is an increase from February 2018 when 37 people tested positive for the A strain. However, in February 2018 106 people tested positive with Influenza B. Six people have tested positive for the B strain so far this month.
Flu B traditionally peeks in the later part of the flu season which runs from October through March, although flu cases for both strains have been seen as early as August and as late as April.
From September through Wednesday, 181 people have tested positive with Flu 1 at BMH and 53 with Flu B. From September 2017 through February 2018, 416 people tested positive for Flu A and 203 with Flu B.
Betty Von Kohn, manager of Infection Prevention Improvement at BMH said flu cases started to rise in Oxford in December, a month later than in December 2017.
“We encourage the public to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation of ‘cover your cough’ practices,” Von Kohn said. “Persons with flu symptoms and fever should plan to stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, except to seek medical care or only if absolutely necessary.”
Practicing hand washing is also important to prevent the spread of flu to others, she added.
The flu hit Mississippi the hardest in the Biloxi-Gulfport area, which is also the most active region in the nation for new flu cases.
The Walgreens Flu Index is compiled using the drugstore chain’s weekly retail prescription data for antiviral medications used to treat influenza across Walgreens and Duane Reade locations nationwide. In addition to the top markets and states, the Flu Index also ranks the markets and states experiencing the greatest gains in activity on a week-over-week basis.
Area schools reported high absentee rates in late January and early February with 300-400 students out during most days at both the Oxford and Lafayette County School Districts.
“Our average daily attendance has been between 88-91 percent for most of the last two weeks,” said OSD Superintendent Brian Harvey. “Yesterday (Wednesday) we were back above 95 percent.”
The highest rate of absences in the OSD peeked on Feb. 5 when 409 students were absent.
Lafayette School District Superintendent Adam Pugh said attendance rates are “almost back to normal.”
“It is much better,” he said Wednesday.