Flu season starting to gain momentum
Cough, fever, sore throat, feeling miserable? You could be among the more than 400 Montgomery County residents who came down with WKH flu DOUHDGy WKLs sHDsRn.
As of gan. 4, there were 420 susSHFWHG FDsHs RI LnfluHn]D reported in Montgomery CRunWy DnG 117 FRnfiUPHG Ey state labs, according to county Communications airector Frank Custer. Sixty-nine county residents were hospiWDOL]HG wLWK WKH flu sR IDU, 53 of whom were over age 50, and there were two deaths in wKLFK WKH flu wDs WKRuJKW WR play a role, he said.
“The numbers are not as high, but they could reach the numbers we had in 2010-11,” Custer said, when the county recorded 575 suspected casHs, 187 FRnfiUPHG, 75 KRsSLtalized and seven deaths.
“It’s still early in the season, but [the numbers] are certainly up over last year, which was light, but not close to 2009-10,” the year of the H1N1 virus, he said.
,W’s nRW WRR ODWH WR JHW D flu shot, which does not guarantee 100 percent protection, “EuW WKLs [yHDU’s] flu sKRW DSpears to cover most of the viUusHs flRDWLnJ DURunG,” CusWHU said, noting “91 percent of the LnfluHn]D YLUusHs DnDOy]HG Ey the CaC this year are covered by the vaccine.”
,nIRUPDWLRn Rn IUHH flu shots available at the county’s health centers in Norristown, Pottstown and Willow drove is at httpW//health. montcopa. org/ health/ cwp/ YLHw,A,3,Q,67285.DsS.
2nsHW RI WKH flu Ls usuDOOy suGGHn, RnH WR fiYH GDys DIter exposure, and lasts two to seven days, according to the Pennsylvania aepartment of Health website. Symptoms include fever over 100 degrees, cough, headache, sore throat, muscle aches and fatigue. It is spread by air droplets, often by the infected person coughing or sneezing.
Antiviral medications may be helpful early on, but the treatment generally comprises rest and drinking lots RI fluLGs.
The state health department charDFWHUL]HG WKH flu Ds widespread, following an increase Ln LnfluHn]D UHSRUWs in all regions of the state the week of DHF. 23 WR 29. 7KH Centers for aisease Control and Prevention estimates between 5 percent and 10 percent of the population gets WKH flu HDFK yHDU, UHSUHsHnWLnJ 600,000 WR 1.3 million people in Pennsylvania. According to the CaC, an estimated 180 to 2,000 PHnnsyOYDnLDns GLH RI flurelated complications every year, mostly in the over 65 age group.
Abington Memorial Hospital has seen an increase in the number of people showing uS DW WKH E5 wLWK flu-UHODWHG syPSWRPs, RIfiFLDOs sDLG WKLs week, and the director of the family medicine residency program at the hospital, ar. gohn g. Russell, said his practice in genkintown has also sHHn D UHFHnW Lnflu[.
“Our volume has been unusually high for all of aecember, but even more so the past two weeks with a large Lnflu[ RI flu, Ds wHOO Ds 569 in children,” Emergency Trauma Center airector Beth Fuller said in a gan. 4 email.
569, WKH PRsW FRPPRn germ that causes lung and airway infections in infants and young children, is a contagious viral disease.
“I certainly think there is a large cohort of people sick now, some with respiratory illnesses and also a dI illness WKDW Ls nRW WKH flu,” Russell said gan. 7.
The most common month for the flu Ls FHEUuDUy, KH said, with ganuary second. Those who JRW D flu sKRW Ln WKH fall are covered for the whole season, he said, noting the vaccine “works best [90 percent] in the healthiest of people,” and a new high dose is available for seniors.
“My understanding is this [year’s vaccine] is a decent PDWFK” IRU WKH flu sWUDLns DIfecting people, Russell said, noting it takes about two weeks to be fully effective.
7DPLflu DnG 5HOHn]D FDn EH prescribed, but the medications have to be taken early on, he said, and can shorten the duration of the disease by about 1.5 days.
Norristown physician ar. Charles Cutler also has seen an increase in patients with viral infections he said Friday.
“The last couple weeks, we’ve seen a lot of viral respiratory illnesses,” Cutler said. “I think some have been sLFN HnRuJK WR KDYH WKH flu. ,W seems there are more than in previous years.
“We’re seeing also a fair amount of intestinal infectious diseases that last a few days, more than in previous years.”
CuWOHU SUHsFULEHG fluLGs, rest and over-the-counter medicines for aches and FRuJKs IRU UHOLHI IURP flu symptoms.
Children should not be given products with aspirin in them, Russell noted.
“7KH flu Ls D YLUus; Dn Dntibiotic will not help. It depletes the body of its normal protective bacteria … in some instances it could make you worse,” Cutler said.
“The key thing is getting WKH flu YDFFLnH,” KH sDLG. “,W prevents one of the real serious viruses from getting into your system.”
To keep from passing on the virus to others, hands should be washed with soap and water, utensils, cups and food should not be shared and the sick person might wear a mask for a few days, he said.
“Sanitary conditions are really important.”
Other prevention tips includeW Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you FRuJK RU snHH]H; JHW SOHnWy of rest, eat properly, and dress DSSURSULDWHOy IRU WKH wHDWKHU; minimize time in crowded areas and avoid contact with WKRsH DW KLJK ULsN IRU WKH flu, such as the elderly and those with chronic illness.
When ill, prevent the spread of germs by staying home from school or work, if possible. Return to work only after being fever free for 24 hours, without the use of fever reducers.
To Your Health Linda Finarelli