2014-01-29 / Front Page

Influenza cases are now widespread in the region

by Kate Evans

There is now widespread seasonal influenza activity in 41 states, including West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia, according to the Centers For Disease Control.

Morgan County Health Department nurse Patty Caldwell said there has been a large increase in the number of influenza-like illnesses reported by area providers in the last two weeks. The number of reported cases jumped from six cases the previous week to 36 cases last week.

Many physicians are just treating patients with flu-like symptoms and not testing them for influenza since it’s such a busy season for illness, she noted.

War Memorial Hospital

War Memorial Hospital, which serves patients in the tri-state area, has been seeing fairly constant flu activity the last few weeks, said hospital community relations specialist Lyn Goodwin. They had five confirmed cases of influenza last week. They have also been seeing a lot of gastro-intestinal viruses, she said.

The hospital and other Valley Health hospitals put a visitor restriction policy in place in mid-January due to the rising number of seasonal flu cases in the region.

Visitors to all Valley Health hospitals must be at least 18 years old. Anyone with symptoms of influenza-like illness shouldn’t visit at all. Visiting hours are also limited to four hours a day-from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Hancock, schools

Nurse Lindy Golden-Morris of River Bend Family Medicine in Hancock said the number of seasonal flu cases they’ve been seeing over the last two weeks has been steady. They’ve been averaging three to four cases a day that have tested positive for Influenza A. Patients have had body aches, fever and a cough, she said.

Morgan County Schools had some cases of flu-like illness the week of January 12-18, Caldwell said. She had no updated report since school was closed all last week due to Martin Luther King’s Day and snow or below zero wind chill. School officials and nurses could not be reached on Monday.

Flu strain

The predominant strain of flu this year is the H1N1 Influenza A, Caldwell said. This 2009 H1N1 flu strain is hitting children and young adults more as well as those over age 65.

Nationwide, there has been some severe respiratory illness and hospitalizations for young and middleaged adults and also adults in the 50-64 age ranges, with some fatalities in other areas.

Since October, there have been 28 pediatric deaths associated with the flu during the 2013-2014 influenza season.

Flu symptoms

Influenza is a respiratory illness. Symptoms usually include fever, cough or sore throat, and may also include headache, fatigue, runny or stuffy nose, chills or body aches. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can also occur, especially in children. Some may also have the flu and have respiratory symptoms without fever.

Caldwell encouraged people to get a flu shot if they can still find one. It would at least help minimize their symptoms if they contract the flu.

The Health Department still has some flu vaccine left. Some pharmacies and physicians may still have some in stock. Call the Health Department at 304-258-1513 for an appointment or for more information.

Protect against the flu

Caldwell encouraged everyone to wash their hands frequently and sanitize and do general cleaning, especially if someone is sick at home. Don’t go out to places where there are big crowds unless necessary, she advised.

Cover your coughs and sneezes and stay home if you’re sick. If washing your hands at a sink isn’t possible, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

If your fever lasts more than 48 hours, see a doctor. If you’re sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medication.

If you have an extremely high fever, see your doctor as soon as possible.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with your hands and spreading germs.

Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that could be contaminated with the flu virus.

Get plenty of sleep and exercise, drink plenty of liquids, eat healthy foods and manage your stress.

Avoid close contact with people that are sick.

Take anti-viral drugs if your doctor prescribes them for influenza.

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