The coughing, sneezes and full hospital waiting rooms tell it all — influenza season is here and still in peak exposure.
Susan Chapman, patient care executive and site administrator with Adventist Health Reedley, said the season began in November and will remain in full effect through March. That has meant an increase in flu-related illnesses and visits to the clinics and emergency rooms.
While the strain hasn’t been as hard-hitting locally as last year, there still is a high number of patients. You’ll know you have the seasonal flu is you get a sudden onset of high fever, cough (usually dry), headache, muscle and joint pain, sore throw, runny nose and a general malaise where you feel under the weather.
Chapman said the best defense mechanism to ward off the flu is an annual flu vaccination. She said it’s important that people don’t buy into the theory that a flu shot will make you contract the flu.
“Everybody thinks you’re going to get the flu when you get a flu shot,” she said. “But the fact is, the injectable flu vaccine does not contain the live virus.”
Chapman said the current vaccine will protect against the influenza A and B strains expected to be in circulation. After getting the shot, it should take about two weeks for antibodies to develop in the body and fully provide protection against the virus.
If you decide not to get the vaccine, it’s still important to take preventative action. Chapman said this includes:
• Avoiding close contact with sick people
• While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to avoid infecting them.
• If sick with flu-like symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (recommended by the Center for Disease Controls). Only go out to get medical care or other necessities. Rest and lots of fluids are essential for recovery.
• Cover your nose or mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw tissue directly into the trash after use and be sure to wash your hands.
• Wash hands often with soap and hot water. If they are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
• Avoids touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
• Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with flu germs.
• Contact your physician in case you need a prescription for antiviral medication to treat the illness.
Chapman said that while the flu season is in effect, the hospital requests that visitors 12 years of age and younger not enter the patient area of the hospital. Exceptions will be made for healthy children who are visiting their newborn siblings. Also, any visitors who have a fever, sore throat or cough should refrain from visiting patients. General in-hospital patients should receive no more than two visitors while emergency department patients are limited to one visitor at a time.
Chapman said that people coming to Adventist Health Reedley can use masks, and hand sanitizer dispensers are readily available in the lobby.
“By following these steps, you can help yourself, your family and friends get through the flu season,” she said.