By DENISE GRANT
Health officials are watching the statistics, but it appears this season’s influenza outbreak may have peaked, according to numbers collected by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Ga.
“It looks like an earlier peak than usual, like last year, but the numbers look lower. It is still too early to tell for sure,” said Colleen Abrams, infection preventionist at Blanchard Valley Hospital.
So far, 105 patients have tested positive for the flu in the entire Blanchard Valley Health System. That would include inpatients and outpatients, and those tested in the emergency room or in urgent care.
Abrams said cases that require hospitalization or that result in the death of a child must be reported to the Health Department for tracking. So far, Blanchard Valley Hospital has admitted only eight people due to flu, and had no deaths.
Health officials say a vaccine is still the best defense against the flu, even now, although supplies are short this far into the season. Abrams said anyone seeking a flu vaccine should call ahead.
“It does appear that most of those hospitalized were not vaccinated,” she said.
The H1N1 virus, which appears to be the dominant flu strain nationwide, was included in the vaccine for this season, Abrams said.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months or older.
Common signs of influenza are high fever, severe body aches, headache, being extremely tired, sore throat, cough, runny or stuffy nose, and vomiting and/or diarrhea (more common in children).
The centers recommend consulting a health care provider if flu is suspected, and seeking medical care immediately for the following symptoms:
• Fast breathing, trouble breathing or bluish skin color.
• Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen (adults).
• Confusion or sudden dizziness.
• Not drinking enough fluids, not being able to eat, or severe or persistent vomiting.
• Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough.
• A child who does not wake up, or who is so irritable that he or she does not want to be held or to interact. Also, if a child develops a fever with a rash, or a child has no tears when crying, or significantly fewer wet diapers than normal.
Good health habits can also slow the spread of the flu. The CDC recommends the following:
• Stay home if sick, and don’t visit hospitals or nursing homes.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Cover nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and throw the tissue away after use. If that’s not possible, cough or sneeze into the elbow, not the hands. People with the flu can spread it to others about 6 feet away through coughs and sneezes.
• Wash hands often, especially after coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
• Avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth.
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