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No end in sight

Flu season takes its toll, even in Clarke County

When people say they have the flu, it’s a common misconception to think the only symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea.

However, that’s not influenza, but most likely an intestinal virus.

“The true flu is a very high fever,” said Sandy Etty, RN, with Clarke County Public Health, during a Jan. 16 interview. “People can be sick with a fever and severe body aches for four to five days.”

Last year, the flu season was light on flu cases. This year is a different story.

Etty said Clarke County Public Health started seeing flu cases as early as September.

As of Jan. 16, Clarke County Public Health has given out 600 flu vaccines since the current flu season started.

“It hit the news in January, and a lot of people started calling, especially over 65,” Etty said.

Etty said she had her original order of flu vaccines, but had to make additional orders for the vaccine.

As of Jan. 18, Clarke County Public Health has ordered additional vaccines for children and adults. The public needs to call Clarke County Public Health for the availability of the vaccines.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu leads to more than 200,000 hospitalizations each year.

At Clarke County Hospital (CCH), there have been people with flu symptoms in the emergency room.

Deb Goerndt, infection control nurse at CCH, said the hospital has had flu cases that have tested positive, as well as patients admitted to the hospital with symptoms of the flu.

CCH does vaccinate their employees with the flu vaccine.

The flu vaccine is available at the hospital for patients after they have been admitted.

In a typical flu vaccine, there are two A strains and a B strain of the virus.

Goerndt said the strain that has been most common this season has been the type A strain H3N2, and not the other type A H1N1 strain that was common a couple of years ago.

“The most important thing is to get immunized each year, and children 6 months and above should get their vaccine,” Etty said.

The best time to get the flu vaccine is in the early fall, Etty added.

How will people know if they have the flu?

Symptoms for influenza are a fever, body aches, sore throat and sinus drainage. It’s a respiratory illness that can even lead to pneumonia. Children and adults can get dehydrated.

“It’s hard to tell the difference between a flu and a cold at first,” Goerndt said. “The flu is more severe.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are three actions people should take to fight the flu.

The first is take time to get the vaccine. The second is take everyday preventative actions to stop the spread of germs. The third is take flu antiviral drugs if a doctor prescribes them.

If people can’t get a flu vaccine, there are other things they can do to stay healthy and fight the flu. Even the flu vaccine itself isn’t a 100 percent solution.

For preventative measures, people should wash their hands, especially children, use an alcohol-based sanitizer, avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth, use sanitary wipes at hospitals and grocery stores, clean and disinfect counters, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures or things that are touched in the home a lot.

If people are sick, they should stay at home to reduce the risk of infecting somebody else. It’s also important for people to cover their coughs and drink a lot of fluids.

If it’s absolutely necessary to go out in public, wear a mask. It is recommended to cancel nonessential group events or using a drive-in teller instead of going into a building filled with people.

This is often referred to as “social distancing.”

“If you live alone, let someone know you’re sick,” Etty said, “so they can keep an eye on things. You may not be making the best decisions if you have a really high fever.”

When asked about the outlook for the rest of the flu season, Goerndt said she is going by what the state epidemiologist said.

“Dr Quinlisk said it’s going to be several more weeks before it starts to decrease,” Goerndt said. “It’s not too late to get a flu shot if you can find one. I would still recommend getting a flu vaccine if you haven’t.”

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