Peak flu season in MS is typically January through March in MS, but state health leaders say they’re already seeing an increase in flu cases. Monday, the Dept of Health confirmed the first pediatric flu death for the 2021-2022 season. Pediatric deaths are defined as deaths of individuals under the age of 18.
Including this reported death, there have been a total of 23 pediatric flu deaths reported in Mississippi since pediatric flu deaths became reportable in the 2008-2009 flu season.
“We recommend that all Mississippians get their flu shots every year, but especially now with COVID-19. The flu vaccination can be given at the same time – or any time before or after – the COVID-19 vaccination. There is no minimum amount of time you need to wait between these vaccinations,” said MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers.
Individual flu cases are not reported to MSDH, but the agency monitors flu activity through the ILI System, made up of healthcare providers in Mississippi who report the percentage of patients with flu-like symptoms to a statewide database. Providers participating in the system also submit respiratory samples for flu testing to the MSDH Public Health Laboratory. State health officials use this information to determine the presence and spread of flu throughout the state.
“We are starting to see increased flu activity in Mississippi through our surveillance system. It is recommended to get vaccinated now before we reach peak flu activity. Influenza vaccination is especially important for young children, pregnant women, those over 65, and those with underlying health problems,” he said. “Flu vaccination is the best way to protect both children and adults from serious complications such as hospitalization, and in many cases, death.”
Those 18 and under who are eligible for the Vaccines for Children program can receive a flu vaccination for $10. Insurance, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is accepted for children’s flu shots. A list of all VFC providers can be found at www.HealthyMS.com/vfc.
Adults who are underinsured or uninsured and who meet certain high-risk criteria qualify for an adult flu vaccination at MSDH county health department clinics. Flu shots for insured adults are now widely available through private physicians, pharmacies and retail centers.
While vaccination is the best protection against flu, basic infection control measures can also reduce the spread of flu and should be taken whether or not individuals are vaccinated. 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. Wearing a face covering in public places offers additional protection against the flu.