Flu outbreak in the Tampa Bay area milder than the rest of the country

Officials call local flu situation 'moderate'

TAMPA - The flu is nothing to sing about, but fourth graders at Walsingham Elementary School are learning that washing your hands for as long as it takes to sing "Happy Birthday to You"  is a great way to stay healthy.

"It's well documented that hand washing is the best way to prevent the spread of germs," says Pinellas Schools Health Coordinator, Sara O'Toole.

Still, those germs are spreading at a furious rate around the nation.   The Google trends map tracks flu-related search queries, which they say correlate with actual flu infections.  Their map shows intense levels of flu interest throughout the East and Midwest, and in much of Florida including Miami. But Tampa's interest in flu information is ranked as high, a notch below intense.

Dr. Douglas Holt of the Hillsborough County Health Department says the bay area is in the moderate stage of a fairly run of the mill flu season.

"That basically means it is certainly in the community, it is not everywhere and we're not seeing a lot of directly linked outbreaks," said Dr. Holt.

The health department measures flu outbreaks in three ways -- the number of  people who show up at emergency rooms with symptoms, actual flu diagnoses by doctors, and absenteeism in area schools.

O'Toole says absenteeism in Pinellas schools are at normal levels.

Dr. Holt is quick to point out that we're still early in the flu season which means the situation could worsen at any time.

"If we're in the early stages, this is the time to double down on your covering your cough, washing your hands and and if you're sick, stay home."

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