H1N1 Is Back: Nasty Flu Strain Circulating Through Madison County

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – No one wants to spend the holidays in the hospital. However, it’s been a busy time for doctors as a particularly nasty strain of flu is making its way through the area.

It’s pH1N1, the same strain that shut down Huntsville, Madison and Madison County schools in 2009.  And while it’s still early in this flu season , so far, the CDC says the swine flu is the predominant strain.  The CDC issued an official Health Advisory about the illness on December 24, 2013.

The very young and the very old are the two groups most vulnerable to the flu, except in the case of swine flu, which traditionally sickens more children and young adults.

“I was talking to a colleague of mine I consult with,” said Dr. N. Rao Thotakura, a pediatrician. “He was telling me of a patient, an 11-month-old that had flu and hospitalized in ICU with pneumonia and also pus around the lungs.”

There are also reports of a teen being admitted to Huntsville Hospital’s ICU.

With school set to resume later this week across north Alabama, a lesson in hand washing may be in order.

“You’ve got to wash both sides. Take your time,” said Dr. Thotakura. “I usually do 30 seconds of good washing, then rinse both sides and wipe.”

According to one study, fewer than 5 percent of Americans wash their hands correctly.  And, if you’re counting on hand sanitizer to protect you, you might be better off counting the germs left behind.

Fortunately, it’s not too late for the best prevention – the flu vaccine – which – this year – does protect against the pH1N1/swine flu strain.

“I think the best thing we all can do is get the flu shot,” said Dr. Thotakura. “It’s not too late now.”

WHNT News 19 spoke with a doctor at the Alabama Department of Public Health who says, at this point, there have been no confirmed flu deaths in the state.  However, there are some anecdotal reports currently under investigation.

Nationwide, four children have died from the flu.

There are other illnesses going around in Madison County, too. Dr. Thotakura said his office has seen several cases of RSV as well as mycoplasma, more commonly known as walking pneumonia.