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Flu bug is still biting

Published: Friday, Feb. 1, 2013 3:24 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Feb. 1, 2013 3:32 p.m. CDT
(BCR photo/Donna Barker)
Area health professionals say the best way to avoid the dreaded flu bug is to practice frequent and thorough hand-washing techniques, saying washing your hands should include more than just a splash of water. Use soap — antibacterial soap is even better — and scrub your hands for at least 30 seconds.

PRINCETON — The flu bug isn’t taking it easy this winter.

On Thursday, Sue Gorman, infection control director for Perry Memorial Hospital, said the hospital is still seeing cases of both Influenza A and Influenza B strands of respiratory flu. The majority of those cases are being treated on the out-patient level, she said.

In early January, Gorman said Perry Memorial started seeing cases of the flu earlier than usual this year, and many of those cases are stronger than normal.

That stronger-than-normal description has continued, Gorman said Thursday. The flu appears to be hitting not only more people than usual, but also hitting them hard with symptoms including high fevers, the chills, dizziness, shaking and feeling achy.

Her recommendations remain the same as before, Gorman said. The best precaution for people to stay flu-free is to wash their hands frequently, cover their coughs and get flu vaccines, which are still available at the local health department. Also, it’s important to disinfect commonly-used surfaces in the home or workplace, like telephones, door knobs, computer keyboards and refrigerator/microwave doors and handles. If a person does become sick, the best thing to do is to stay home, she added.

On Thursday, Sue Cater, nurse for the Princeton Elementary School and Princeton High School districts, said the schools are definitely seeing the flu among the students and staff, but it’s just not the respiratory flu but also the stomach flu. The sickness seems to strike quickly, with kids coming to school and then getting sick and going home.

As far as the severity of the flu season at the schools, Cater said it appears to be about typical for this time of the year. Again, her best pieces of advise to everyone is for people to wash their hands often and thoroughly, and then to stay home if they do become sick.

Diana Rawlings, director of the Bureau/Putnam County Health Department, also talked about some common sense practices which people can do in the workplace to protect themselves from the flu. The surfaces of commonly-used equipment and surfaces should be disinfected on a regular basis, especially if someone who routinely uses them has been sick. This disinfecting is especially true when Norovirus, often called the stomach flu, is going around, as the virus can survive on surfaces for several hours, she said.

Though the weather has been fairly mild so far this winter, scientists do not know for sure if that mildness has had an impact on the flu level, Rawlings said. However, people do tend to congregate inside more during the winter months, and the air is often dry, which allow the flu virus to circulate more.

In a recent press release from the Illinois Department of Public Health, IDPH Director LaMar Hasbrouck said there is no doubt Illinois is experiencing a severe flu season, as is much of the country.

“However, we have seen severe flu seasons before and we will continue to work to reduce the number of people who become ill,” Hasbrouck said. “It is important for people to take precautions, get vaccinated, stay home if you’re sick and wash your hands frequently. Doing all these things will not only help keep you healthy, but the people around you healthy.”

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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