Flu levels common across Alabama

It may appear that sickness is all around you.

However, the number of cases of influenza like illnesses in Alabama is nothing out of the ordinary.

The flu season did start early and the entire state of Alabama has been affected by it. Dr. Don Williamson, the state's health officer just urges people to still get vaccinated.

Dr. Williamson says it's not too late and that there's an abundant supply of the vaccine.{} With this flu season expected to run into early March, doctors say if you haven't gotten vaccinated already, to do so by first week of February.

"The influenza vaccine begins to become effective about two weeks after receipt. So if you haven't already had it, consider getting vaccinated," says Williamson.

Williamson{} says the next two weeks can be critical for this year's cold and flu season.

"If you can avoid getting it over the next two weeks, while it's not a perfect vaccine, it will dramatically reduce your risk of getting influenza," says Williamson.

In Birmingham, Dr. James Colvard sees sick patients coming in every day."We're probably seeing, eight or nine patients a day coming in and complaining of what they think might be the flu," says Colvard.Colvard says at least half of those patients actually have the flu. He will agree with Dr. Williamson that this flu season hasn't been nearly as bad as in years past."This is not the worst season for the flu, it's been very even to what we've seen last year," says Colvard.doctors say it's important to look for the signs and symptoms and to use "common sense" tips to prevent the spread of influenza. "The most important thing is washing hands religiously, before eating, after you sneeze or cough, the hand sanitizer is just as effective as using soap and water," says Dr. Susan Walley, a pediatrician with Children's of Alabama.

Walley says parents as well as children as young as six months should get the vaccine. "While the influenza vaccine is not 100 percent protective, it is the best thing we have out now. So get your child immunized with the vaccine, get yourself, make sure everyone in the household is protected, because it is no fun to get the flu," says Walley.

Doctors say, if you've gotten your flu shot and you start to get some of the early symptoms of influenza, try to treat it with over the counter medicines, specifically an anti-inflammatory drug, like Tylenol or ibuprofen. But, to remember to follow dosage directions.