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Flu bug is vicious biter this year

Published: Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 5:33 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 6:15 p.m. CDT
Caption
(BCR photos/Donna Barker)
Sue Gorman, infection control nurse at Perry Memorial Hospital in Princeton, demonstrates the use of a respiratory hygiene mask available at all entryways into the hospital.
Caption
(BCR photo/Donna Barker)
Respiratory hygiene masks, facial tissues and hand sanitizers are available to help prevent the spread of germs into the hospital.

BUREAU COUNTY — Bureau County is definitely at the peak of flu season, which has hit earlier and stronger than normal, according to Sue Gorman, infection control nurse at Perry Memorial Hospital in Princeton.

On Thursday, Gorman said she hasn’t seen the flu season hit this early in years. Perry Memorial started seeing cases of respiratory influenza in early December, with those numbers increasing to probably a dozen lab-confirmed cases during the past couple weeks. Most of those cases have been treated as out-patients, but some people have been admitted to the hospital, she said.

Most people can hopefully ride out their flu if they are generally healthy and are able to stay inside, get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids, Gorman said. However, it’s especially important for people to see their doctor if their general health has been comprised in some way, such as if they have asthma, emphysema, a heart condition or diabetes, she said.

The flu season is definitely not over, and it’s definitely not too late for people to get their flu shots, Gorman said. To safeguard against the spread of germs, people should wash their hands frequently and cover their coughs, she said.

The hard part of curtailing the spread of germs is the fact that people are contagious for 24 hours before they may have any symptoms, which means they are spreading the germs before they know they have the germ to spread, Gorman said.

At each entryway into Perry Memorial, the hospital has set up a sanitizer station which includes tissues, hand sanitizer and respiratory hygiene masks. If people with a cough or illness come into the hospital, they are encouraged to use the masks so they don’t spread their germs, Gorman said.

On the east side of Bureau County, Ramey Lovelady, infection control director for St. Margaret’s Health in Spring Valley, said St. Margaret’s is also dealing with cases of respiratory flu, pneumonia and stomach flu. The hospital had its first lab-confirmed case of flu at the end of November, with the number of flu cases definitely picking up in January.

The amount of flu activity this season is definitely is greater than what it was a year ago at this time, Lovelady said. There are both lab-confirmed cases and also symptoms-diagnosed cases. Once the lab has confirmed that the flu is present in the community, then subsequent cases are often symptoms-diagnosed, she said.

The majority of cases at St. Margaret’s have been handled on an out-patient level, though there have been some people who have been admitted to the hospital, Lovelady said.

Again, Lovelady recommended people who have not yet received their flu shots, do so now. The flu season is far from over and people can get the flu more than once, especially since there are so many different strains of flu, she said.

To protect themselves from the spread of germs, people should clean their hands often, cover their coughs, and stay home if they are sick. They should also clean shared surfaces and stay out of public places as much as possible, she said.

Now that Bureau County schools are back in session after the holiday break, school officials will also monitor flu activity within their buildings.

On Thursday, Sue Cater, nurse for the Princeton Elementary School and Princeton High School districts, said she has been seeing some absences in the schools, but from a variety of illnesses. There does appear to be more illnesses during the winter months at the schools, but the number of this year’s absences are about the same as last year, she said.

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