Flu strikes area hard

By Kristen Tribe | Published Wednesday, January 9, 2013

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Feeling achy? High fever? Does your head hurt?

You’re not alone.

The flu is sweeping Wise County, and health officials report seeing an increased number of cases just before Christmas, much earlier than normal.

“Last year I’m thinking it was February before we started seeing the flu,” said nurse LeeAnn Cummings, director of the emergency department at Wise Regional Health System (WRHS) in Decatur. “This year it was before Christmas and much heavier.”

The Texas Department of State Health Services reported that there were more flu cases reported in week 52 (Dec. 23-28) of 2012 than in the same week last year for Health Service Region 2/3, of which Wise County is a part.

There is no legal requirement in Texas for reporting influenza, so the numbers are only an estimate of actual cases.

Tammy Little, manager of the emergency room and intensive care unit at North Texas Community Hospital in Bridgeport, said in the last 30 days they have documented nine cases of type A influenza and 15 cases of type B.

She said there are also other respiratory viruses going around that are not the flu but have some of the same symptoms.

Cummings at Wise Regional said any type of viral illness must simply run its course.

“Some people come in and have the exact same symptoms but don’t swab positive for the flu,” she said.

Although there is no cure for the flu, doctors and nurses recommend rest and drinking plenty of fluids.

Cummings said Tamiflu is sometimes prescribed to patients who test positive for the flu, but it’s not proven to help. It can minimize symptoms, but she said some patients report no change after taking the medicine.

Also, it must be administered within 24 hours of the first occurence of symptoms.

“If you’re on day two or three, it’s not going to do you any good,” Cummings said. She added that it’s most often given to high-risk patients like young children and the elderly, who have a greater chance of developing other complications, such as pneumonia.

Dr. Jon Walker of Bridgeport recommended the following steps to prevent catching germs from others:

  • Wash your hands before eating or touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Wash your hands after touching anyone who is sneezing, coughing or blowing their nose, or has a runny nose;
  • Wash your hands after using the restroom;
  • Don’t share towels, lipstick, toys, cigarettes, food, eating utensils, drinking glasses or anything else that might be contaminated with respiratory germs;
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick;
  • Avoid closed, crowded spaces when possible.

His office also recommended cleaning surfaces with a virus-killing disinfectant to help prevent the spread of infection, if someone in your home has the flu.

“Our winter perfume for the nurses is Lysol,” said Harriet Garrison, Dr. Walker’s nurse.

She also added that it is not too late to get a flu shot.

Vaccine is available in Wise County but is in short supply at some locations. In fact, Little said there is none available at NTCH.

Cummings advised calling your pharmacy or doctor’s office if you’re looking to get a flu shot.

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