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Flu cases are declining in Florida but still higher than normal

 Flu season usually ends around May, but this year in Florida cases spiked as the summer approached. The surge is calming down now.
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Flu season usually ends around May, but this year in Florida cases spiked as the summer approached. The surge is calming down now.

Flu cases in Florida are steadily declining but remain much higher than usual for this time of year.

Flu season typically ends in May and starts again in October. But cases spiked at the end of last month in parts of the state, including the Tampa Bay region.

Polk County had been reporting elevated flu activity as the season was supposed to be winding down while Pinellas and Manatee reported moderate activity. Hillsborough County reported a late-season outbreak as well.

State data shows the numbers have been coming down for the past couple weeks, but the percent of emergency department visits with a discharge diagnosis of influenza statewide are still well above the previous three-season average for late June.

RELATED: View Florida's recent weekly influenza surveillance reports

Epidemiologists with the Florida Department of Health in Manatee County suspect the increase could be due in part to families moving around more when school let out, according to communications director Christopher Tittel.

Many people have also relaxed mitigation efforts intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19 that helped keep flu cases down in recent years.

Manatee has moved from moderate to mild flu activity in recent weeks, said Tittel, who advises residents still take precautions to keep themselves and others safe.

“Wash your hands regularly, make sure you cover that cough, ideally with a tissue that you're going to dispose of. Wiping down surfaces and, really important, if you’re feeling sick, stay home. If your children are feeling sick, keep them at home,” said Tittel.

The department has offered flu vaccines for the past year’s season but flu shots get reformulated every year to adapt to the virus’ changing structure. Manufacturers are preparing new vaccines for the 2022-2023 flu season beginning in the fall, and Tittel expects they should be available around September.

“We always encourage vaccination as the lead way to prevent the spread of flu, in this case as we’re moving between years those mitigation measures are going to become much, much more important,” he said.

Copyright 2022 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7. To see more, visit WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7.

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Stephanie Colombini joined WUSF Public Media in December 2016 as Producer of Florida Matters,WUSF’s public affairs show. She’s also a reporter for WUSF’s Health News Florida project.