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Officials: Flu and pertussis on the move across Alaska

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch

It's official; the flu has landed in Alaska. According to the Alaska State Virology Laboratory, influenza activity in Alaska has ramped up in recent weeks. Officials say the flu has been confirmed in most regions of the state, and it's not alone. Cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, are also on the rise.

State officials say they have confirmed 91 cases of influenza in the last four weeks, including 23 cases from Nov. 10 to 17. The majority of recent positive test results came from the Anchorage/Mat-Su and Interior regions. From 2009 to 2011, the annual average number of pertussis cases reported in Alaska was 42. Already this year, more than 200 cases have been reported in the state.

In a press release, the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) said it expects a continual increase in influenza activity as the season progresses. DHSS recommends that those who've not yet been vaccinated consider taking advantage of a flu shot. Although, state nurse epidemiologist Donna Fearey told Alaska Dispatch, residents should be aware that it can sometimes take weeks for the vaccine to become effective.

While both the flu and common colds are viruses, the flu often has a quicker, more severe onset. Symptoms include fever, cough, body aches and extreme fatigue. While colds generally clear up, the flu can develop into respiratory complications like pneumonia.

Pertussis, on the other hand, is a bacterial disease and it's very contagious. Initial symptoms, like the flu, are similar to the common cold but pertussis comes with an extra kick, namely episodes of uncontrollable coughing. The cough sets in a few days after the preliminary symptoms, about 10 to 12 days after exposure to the bacteria.

For more on causes, symptoms and prevention of pertussis click here and for more on the flu in Alaska click here.