Mississippi confirms first 2013-2014 flu season cases

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported its first confirmed cases of influenza on Tuesday for the 2013-2014 flu season.

The MSDH Public Health Laboratory said the confirmed cases are all influenza A 2009 H1N1, which is one of the strains covered by the current flu vaccine. The MSDH said the flu vaccine is now available at all county health departments.

"We are now starting to see confirmed flu cases in Mississippi," Mary Currier, the state health officer, said. "This not only indicates that flu has been detected in the state, but it also serves as a reminder that now is the best time to get your flu shot. The flu shot takes one to two weeks to produce immunity, and although flu season usually peaks in January through March, it sometimes reaches high levels as early as December."

The MSDH monitors flu activity through the Influenza-Like Illness Sentinel Surveillance System. The system is made up of healthcare providers who report the percentage of patients with flu-like symptoms to a statewide database. The providers also submit respiratory samples for flu testing to the MSDH Public Health Laboratory. The MSDH uses the information to determine if flu is spreading in the state.

The MSDH recommends the flu shot as the best protection against infection. Other infection control measures include individuals covering their mouths when sneezing and coughing, staying at home when they or their children are sick and washing their hands frequently.