According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), most of the country is now experiencing high levels of influenza-like-illness (ILI). The level of influenza (flu) activity is nearly as high as peak levels seen in past “moderately severe” flu seasons.
Amy Sorg, CRNP and family medicine specialist at Cole Memorial stated, “Extra caution needs to be taken to protect against the spread of flu especially for certain people who are considered to be high-risk as it may lead to mortality. This includes young children, people older than age 65, pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems or with co-morbidities such as asthma, lung disease, cancer, heart disease or diabetes.”
In Pennsylvania, the Department of Health (DOH) reported 3,193 flu cases were identified during the final week of December; up from 2,196 cases reported the week before. According to the Pennsylvania DOH website, the current status for influenza activity has been labeled “widespread”, meaning there has been an increase in influenza activity in all regions of the state.
Dr. A. Ramani Arya from Cole Memorial’s Bowman Health Center in Smethport noted, “Symptoms that signify the flu are fever, aches and extreme fatigue.” She added, “12 Questions to ask yourself for determining if you have the cold, flu or allergies…”
1) Do you have a fever?
2) Do you have muscle aches and pains?
3) Do you have a runny nose with clear discharge?
4) Do you have a runny nose with thick discharge?
5) Do you have congestion or a stuffy nose?
6) Do you have a sore throat?
7) Do you have sneezing?
8) Do you have watery, itchy eyes?
9) Do you have a dry, hacking cough?
10) Do you have a moist cough?
11) Do you feel fatigued?
12) Do you have a headache?
Reports from the CDC indicate the circulating strains identified are primarily Influenza A (H3N2), and to a lesser extent the 2009 Influenza A (H1N1) and Influenza B strains. Components against these strains are included in this year’s flu vaccine formulation. However, these strains appear to be susceptible to certain antiviral drugs used for treatment options. Contact your healthcare provider for further details.
“Usually, the flu season peaks around mid-January or February, but it is not too late to get vaccinated,” said Cole Memorial’s Director of Quality Management & Infection Control Kristine Zitnik, RN, BSN, CIC. “Current recommendations say everyone greater than 6 months of age should be immunized, as this is the best way to protect against the flu. For the past three years, Cole Memorial’s staff has prided themselves on receiving state awards for over 95% flu shots participation to protect our patients and others from infection, in addition to providing community immunization clinics.”
Other simple, common actions to prevent the spread of flu include:
• Cover coughs or sneezes (try not to use hands) and dispose of tissues properly
• Wash hands with soap and water
• Use hand sanitizer to clean hands when soap and water are not available
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth because germs can spread this way
• If you do become sick with flu-like-illness, stay home and limit contact with others for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone (gone without using medicine).
When contacting healthcare providers, be sure to advise them of symptoms and when they started. This information may be helpful for a medical appointment. Note: sometimes patients are asked to wear a mask to decrease the chance of spreading the illness to others in the waiting area.
Cole Memorial, recipient of several state awards and national recognitions, is a hospital and healthcare network that serves over 50,000 residents within a 65-mile service area with its specialists, internal medicine office, Express Care, and ten community health care centers in Potter, Cameron, McKean and Tioga Counties in Pennsylvania and New York’s southern tier. Locate a Cole Memorial healthcare provider at 814-274-9300 or visit www.charlescolehospital.com.
For current information and tips on the flu in Pennsylvania, visit the PA Department of Health website at http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/influenza_(flu)/14161 or http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/influenza/surveillance/ in New York State.