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According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Alabama might be experiencing one of the worst flu outbreaks in the country this season.

The CDC recently collected the number of medical visits for respiratory illness in which the patient also had a cough or sore throat. They used the numbers to determine the ILI (influenza-like illness) activity level for each state and U.S. territory.

The numbers did not specifically include laboratory-confirmed influenza, however. The report noted the numbers could include patients suffering from other respiratory pathogens with similar symptoms. 

Researchers collected data for the four weeks from October 2-29. Alabama's ILI activity level appeared to get more severe each week.

The state's ILI activity level was relatively low as October began but later surpassed other severe states in the Southeast.

By the final week, Alabama was one of three states with the highest ILI activity level. The other states were Tennessee and South Carolina. More states in the South, such as Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia and Texas, also had high ILI activity levels.

Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) district medical officer Wes Stubblefield said this is the highest flu activity Alabama has seen since 2009.

The cases might be exceptionally high among children, the ADPH reported. The CDC announced the first flu-related death of a child this season on Thursday.

Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics president Nola Ernest said that the highest number of outpatient visits for illnesses like the flu are ages 5 to 24.

At the USA Health Children’s & Women's Hospital in Mobile, more children are hospitalized for the flu than Respirator Syncytial Virus infection (RSV). 

Other hospitals have seen similar increases, including Children's of Alabama in Birmingham. 

"In the last few weeks, Children's of Alabama has seen a surge of admissions with children who are critically ill from influenza and associated complications," said Michele Kong, director of the Pediatric Critical Care Research Program at Children's. "These have included those patients who have required ventilation and some so severe that [heart-lung-bypass] support was needed. We urge families to take the flu virus seriously and to ensure that their children and adolescents are protected."

Flu symptoms include sudden fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. Some may experience vomiting or diarrhea. 

Though most people recover from the flu in less than two weeks, some develop complications like pneumonia, which can result in death.

According to the CDC, you are at higher risk for complications if you are older than 65, have a chronic medical condition or are pregnant. If you have a child younger than 5, they might also be at an increased risk.

Flu might cause dehydration and difficulty breathing as well as myocarditis, respiratory failure and encephalitis in young children, which might require them to go to the hospital.

You can find emergency warning signs for flu complications on the CDC's website.

For mild cases of the flu, your doctor might prescribe you antiviral drugs, which can lessen symptoms and shorten the length of time you have them.

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email will.blakely@1819news.com or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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