Flu is Here!

January 15, 2014

Southern Tennessee Medical Center and Emerald Hodgson Hospital report that influenza is very active in our community and, once school resumes this week, expect cases to increase rapidly. Denise Hamrick, RN, Chief Nursing Officer states, “During the last two weeks of December, fourteen percent of the patients who presented to the Emergency Department had flu or flu-like illness. In the first five days of January, that volume has increased to fifteen percent. Many of the patients are very young children and young adults. Some of these patients are very sick.

      Early in the flu season a few cases of Influenza “B” were diagnosed, but the majority of cases have been Influenza “A.”  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a Health Alert on December24, 2013, that stated the pH1N1 virus is causing severe respiratory illness among young and middle-aged adults. Across the United States, a number of patients have been ill enough to require care in hospital Intensive Care Units. There have already been deaths in other cities associated with the flu this year.

     pH1N1 is the same influenza virus that circulated in 2009 and caused widespread illness among children and younger adults. The CDC states, “While it is not possible to predict which influenza viruses will predominate during the entire 2013-14 influenza season, pH1N1 has been the predominant circulating virus so far. For the 2013-14 season, if pH1N1 virus continues to circulate widely, illness that disproportionately affects young and middle-aged adults may occur.”

How is Flu Spread?

     Experts believe that the influenza virus is spread through the air by droplets released when people with the flu talk, cough or sneeze. Other people then inhale the droplets through their mouth or nose. The virus may also be spread by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching your own mouth or nose.

What Can You Do?

Get vaccinated:  If you have not already received the flu vaccination, it is not too late to get one. Vaccine is available at many of our local pharmacies and physician offices. The hospital offers flu vaccine to all inpatients during flu season. The CDC recommends flu vaccination for everyone 6 months of age and older.

Wash your hands: Use plain soap and water or alcohol-based hand cleaner frequently during the flu season.

Stay at home if you are sick: The CDC states that healthy adults may be able to infect other people beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than 7 days. Symptoms start 1 to 4 days after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons may still spread the virus to others. You should:

  1. Stay at home and rest.
  2. Avoid close contact with well people in your house so you won’t make them sick.
  3. Drink plenty of water and other clear liquids to prevent fluid loss (dehydration).
  4. Treat fever and cough with medicines you can buy at the store.
  5. If you get very sick, are pregnant, or have a medical condition that puts you at high risk of flu-related complications (like asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), call your doctor. You might need medication to reduce the severity of the flu.
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