This time last year, local health officials were seeing the number of Influenza cases skyrocketing, resulting in a limited number of vaccinations and treatment made readily available to local residents.
With flu season in its peak, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, along with health care officials, are encouraging those who haven’t received a vaccination yet to do so, and those with symptoms to act with caution and care.
Maegan Myers, immunization nurse with the Sampson County Health Department, said there have not been many reports of the flu this far at the local health agency. Following last year’s flu epidemic, the strain of the flu that is targeted in the vaccination was changed to better fit what officials expected for this year.
“I feel like this year’s flu vaccine is providing protection against the flu virus this year,” Myers said. “However, it is still early. We may see a spike in flu cases towards the beginning of the new year.”
Receiving those vaccinations, health care officials say, is very important when fighting the flu.
“One of the most important services our pharmacy can offer during this flu season is help protecting patients against the seasonal flu, Amanda Bryan, pharmacist at Clinton Drug Company, said. “It is important to be prepared during this severe flu season, and we are dedicated to supporting our community by providing patients with these essential vaccinations and educating them on additional measures they can take to help reduce their risk of getting the flu.”
While an exact number of flu cases within Sampson County is unknown, Myers said she has not received any notification of flu-related deaths or flu cases from any of the nursing home settings. Doctor’s offices and clinics are not required to report those cases to the health department either.
Following last year’s outbreak of the common virus, pharmacists at local drug stores and the hospital reported a significant shortage of the prescription Tamiflu, a drug used to treat the flu virus in those ages two weeks and older.
Drug stores were having a problem replenishing their supply of the drug when warehouse suppliers were running out. The increased demand of the drug came on the heels of an outbreak of more cases of the flue. The vaccine given last year was not beneficial because a mutated version of the flu was making its rounds and hitting people across the state.
Bryan encourages those who are experiencing flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting, to contact a local pharmacy or physician immediately.
In addition to receiving the flu vaccination, Myers says there are other steps one can take to help prevent someone from getting the flu.
Myers encourages people to wash their hands. Hand washing, she said, is the number one step in infection control. Hands harbor millions of bacteria just from every day use.
“Washing your hands well and washing them often will protect you against those bacteria,” Myers added. “Always wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 15-20 seconds. This will ensure you kill the bacteria that are on your hands.”
Another preventative measure, according to Myers, is to cover coughs and sneezes with an arm. This will prevent the spread of germs to other people.
The health department nurse also encourages people to stay at home if they are sick, especially if running a fever. This will allow time to rest and get better and will also prevent infecting anyone else.
Fore more information on the flu vaccination, contact your local physician, the health department or a local pharmacy.
There are suggestions for helping contain the virus and keep it from spreading to others. According to Wanda Holden, RN, Infection Control Nurse with Sampson Regional Medical Center, one of the best ways to prevent the flu is by getting the flu vaccine.
To date, Holden said in a two month period from September to November, there have only been 17 confirmed cases of the flu. With the flu virus peaking around mid-December last year, Holden encourages everyone to get the flu vaccination.
According to Holden, tips for helping prevent the spread of the virus include:
Hand and respiratory hygiene is the next best step to preventing the spread of flu. Hand washing helps stop the spread of germs. It’s recommended that you wash often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
It’s also important to remember to disinfect surfaces and objects that may come in contact with flu germs. In the home and workplace, disinfect phones, keyboards, door handles, and other commonly touched surfaces. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth to prevent the spread of germs.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and if you are sick, try to stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. It’s also recommended that people wear a face mask to reduce spreading or catching germs.
If you cough or sneeze, use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose, or direct your cough or sneeze into your elbow. This way, you are less likely to touch a surface and spread germs.
“Sampson Regional Medical Center has hygiene stations located at all main entrances and throughout the hospital to promote hand washing and use of face masks,” Holden advised. “While masks are not required, it is highly encouraged that visitors wear a mask when visiting patients. We also advise visitors to clean their hands at a hand washing station as they enter and exit the facility.”
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.