Flu season is finally here, take precautions

Residents of the Eastern Shore have been hit hard by the flu this season, but they aren’t alone.

The entire continental United States is experiencing widespread flu right now, the first time in the 13 years of the current tracking system that this has happened, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials said this flu season is shaping up to be one of the worst in recent years. The rate of flu hospitalizations — the number of people hospitalized with flu per 100,000 — rose sharply this month and is likely to continue well into February, although that isn’t the case locally.

Inpatient numbers at Peninsula Regional Medical Center are slightly higher, but Emergency Department visits are a little lower than last year, said Gwenn Garland, a medical center spokesman.

Garland said she checked with Infection Preventionist Karen Mihalik and found “about a quarter of patients who come in to PRMC with the flu have been hospitalized.”

“Some have complicating factors or underlying illnesses that are making them sicker, though, not usually just being hospitalized for flu,” Garland said.

“It doesn’t appear to be dramatically higher than in past years. She is a long-time employee who has seen a lot of flu seasons, and she said it doesn’t look to her at all like, for instance, the season with H1N1.

“That actually did land a lot of people in the hospital just because they had the flu, and increased our patient load significantly,” Garland told the Salisbury Independent this week.

CDC officials continue to stress the importance of vaccinations to prevent infection and the spread of influenza.

And, those who are sick — especially if they are suffering from underlying conditions – should seek medical attention.

Dr. Walter Gianelle of Your Doc’s In offered tips for prevention and treatment, including:

  • Get a flu shot. It isn’t too late. The flu season is expected to last another 12 weeks. Up to three-quarters of flu cases are asymptomatic, according to a study in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, so even if flu does not produce symptoms, those who have it are exposing others to the virus.
  • Those with symptoms of fever, aches, headaches, joint pain, vomiting or diarrhea should see a doctor for a Tamiflu prescription within the first 48 hours.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.  If you are sick, limit contact with others.
  • Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol- based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated.

At PRMC, those with a cold, cough, fever or flu symptoms are asked not to visit patients at the hospital.

Children under 12 are currently restricted from visiting. Those with appointments are asked to not bring children under 12 to the appointments unless the appointment is for the child.

Siblings under 12 may visit PRMC’s Mother-Baby unit or Labor and Delivery after a screening by the patient’s nurse. Children with upper respiratory infections or flu symptoms will not be permitted to visit.

Restrictions are likely through March.

Consider these ways to avoid the flu:

*Eat garlic. Especially raw, garlic contains compounds that have direct antiviral effects and may help destroy the flu.

*Eat citrus fruits, ginger, yogurt and dark leafy greens, which boost immunity, according to Mother Nature’s Network.

*Add a little dark chocolate which, according to The British Journal of Nutrition, supports T-helper cells, which increase the immune system’s ability.

*Try chicken soup.

*Drink more liquids to keep the respiratory system hydrated and make mucus less viscous.

*Get adequate sleep.


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