by Kate Evans
Seasonal influenza activity is high across the United States and continues to increase, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This region was among 46 states and Puerto Rico with widespread flu activity, including West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio. The District of Columbia had local flu activity.
A total of 32 pediatric deaths have been reported to the CDC this flu season. Officials estimate that there have been at least 9.7 million flu illnesses, 87,000 hospitalizations and 4,800 deaths from the flu this season. Current flu activity is mostly being caused by influenza B/Victoria viruses, which usually surface in the spring.
Dr. Gerald Bechamps, Vice-President of Medical Affairs for War Memorial Hospital and Hampshire Memorial Hospital, said that they’d seen an increase of patient cases with flu-like symptoms in the emergency room.
War Memorial Hospital had a 4.1% percentage of influenza-like illness reported January 11 and Hampshire County Hospital had a 5.3% rate, Bechamps said. The whole nation was double or more than the 2.4% baseline measure. Influenza-like illness is defined as a fever of 100 degrees or more, cough and/or sore throat.
Some 34 states along with the District of Columbia, New York City and Puerto Rico reported high levels of influenza-like illness during the week ending January 4.
West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia were among the states.
Bechamps encouraged people to still get their flu shots which can help protect them from the flu into March and April. He also urged people to wash their hands often and to wear a face mask if they’re visiting someone in the hospital and have symptoms.
War Memorial Hospital has no visiting restrictions at this time.
The eastern region of West Virginia had one outbreak of flu and influenza-like illness during the week of January 4 and some 542 positive influenza cases reported across the state.
River Bend Family Medicine in Hancock reported one confirmed case of flu. They were seeing mostly upper respiratory illness-more sinus infections, bronchitis and some strep throat.
Michael Family Practice in Berkeley Springs had no confirmed flu but said they were seeing a lot of upper respiratory illness.
Morgan County Schools lead nurse Gina Mellott said most schools are reporting average absence and attendance rates with sporadic influenza B, strep throat, stomach viruses, viral illness and upper respiratory illness. The Pleasant View area reported that illness had improved since the holiday break.
Nurses sent home their illness prevention letter before Christmas break reminding parents and guardians to keep kids home if they have signs of sore throat, fever higher than 100 degrees, nausea/vomiting/diarrhea, chills, severe nasal congestion/cough, open sores and
rashes, Mellott said.
Children should remain home until 24 hours without fever or symptom free without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
They advised parents to also follow these guidelines for their kids’ extracurricular, sports and outside school activities to prevent the spread of illness.
Flu and pneumonia vaccines are available through county health departments, family physicians and pharmacies.
Influenza symptoms are fever, cough or sore throat, headache, fatigue, runny or stuffy nose, chills or body aches. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can also occur, especially in children.
Serious complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis and sinus and ear infections can occur from influenza. Complications can require hospitalization and become life-threatening or fatal.
If you get it
Antiviral drugs like Tamiflu can lessen flu symptoms and shorten the illness by one or two days. They can also prevent serious flu complications such as pneumonia and a hospital stay.
The CDC recommends that anyone sick with flu-like illness
should stay home for at least 24 hours after a fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine, except to get medical care or other necessities.
Wash hands with soap and water often to prevent flu and other illness. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water isn’t available.
Stay home when sick, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or one’s sleeve and avoid touching one’s eyes, nose and mouth to prevent spreading germs.
Clean and disinfect commonly used objects and surfaces and limit one’s contact with others while sick to prevent them from getting sick.