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Flu spreading fast through Alaska

By Shannon Ballard 7:07 PM December 27, 2013

Last Frontier among states reporting widespread outbreak

ANCHORAGE – Cover your mouth and wash your hands because the flu is spreading fast in Alaska. Health officials expect the problem only to get worse.

It can hit you from six feet away. A cough or a sneeze that leads to a sore throat, body aches, fever and chills. In just the past couple weeks, the number of reported cases more than tripled.

With thousands of hands perusing the aisles at Fred Meyer Friday, germs were on the brain for some shoppers.

“Well, we have felt better,” Rebecca Love said.

Love and her 3-year-old daughter Olivia are searching for a remedy.

“I think she gave it to me. What do you think?” Love asked Olivia. “Did you get mama sick?”

This season’s flu outbreak is widespread. State epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin said it’s mostly H1N1, the so-called swine flu.

“The big reason why people should care about the flu is because it’s much more severe typically than the common cold,” McLaughlin said. “People get hospitalized and can die from the flu.”

In Alaska, nearly 200 cases of various flu strains have been reported this month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health advisory.

McLaughlin said people are developing symptoms severe enough to be hospitalized.

“We don’t appear to be at the peak for influenza activity. That could happen in the next few weeks, or it could happen in February or even March,” McLaughlin said. “So it’s definitely not too late to get vaccinated.”

There have been no reported deaths in Alaska from this year’s flu season. The Department of Health and Social Services said vaccinations are still available throughout the state.

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