Flu spiked early this season

Type B flu sees predominant cases in Lake Area

Barbara Neville receives a flu shot from one of the Camden County Health Department employees during an Osage Beach Health Fair.

Barbara Neville receives a flu shot from one of the Camden County Health Department employees during an Osage Beach Health Fair. Photo by Samantha Edmondson.

According to Lake Regional Health System, the flu spiked much earlier in the season than usual, and cases are still being confirmed at a fairly consistent rate.

“The peak of flu season, like the peak of any dynamic process, can only be determined retrospectively after the process has waned or is over,” said Jim Howard, registered nurse, CIC, infection preventionist at Lake Regional Health System. “At the present time, we can’t tell if flu has peaked, or if there will be multiple peaks during this flu season. What we can say is that new influenza cases are still being confirmed at a fairly consistent rate and we are seeing a transition from predominantly type B flu cases early in the season to predominantly type A flu cases now.”

In December, 85 positive rapid influenza cases were tested at Lake Regional’s Urgent Care and eight were reported by the hospital’s lab. For the first three weeks in January, the Urgent Care has reported 42 cases and the hospital lab has reported 25.

For Jan. 1-12, Miller County Health Department has reported three influenza A cases and two influenza B cases. For the entire flu season, Miller County has seen nine influenza A cases and 55 influenza B cases.

The Camden County Health Department is seeing the same trend as Lake Regional and Miller County Health Department with an increase in type B. For Jan. 1-12, Camden County reported 29 influenza A cases and 26 influenza B cases. Total for the flu season, Camden County reported 54 influenza A cases and 208 influenza B cases. For the first week of January, 13 of those cases were confirmed A and 13 cases were B. The second week, 16 cases were confirmed as influenza A and 13 B.

The four area school districts, School of the Osage, Camdenton, Morgan County R-II and Eldon, all are currently seeing a typical number of absences for January. However, all of the school district officials said before Christmas attendance was down.

For Missouri, from the beginning of flu season through Jan. 12, 15, 634 positive influenza tests were reported with 2,925 influenza A, 12,073 influenza B and 636 unknown or untyped. Missouri is still reporting “widespread” to the Centers for Disease Control for the second week in January.

The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting someone against flu viruses. The flu vaccine will protect against the three influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the season. This includes an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus.

In addition to getting vaccinated, the Red Cross has some simple steps people can take to help prevent the spread of the flu virus. Parents can also practice these things with their kids to help keep them well:

• Cover the nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing, and throw the tissue away after use. If a tissue isn’t available, cough or sneeze into the elbow, not the hands.

• 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.

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

• Stay home if sick.

How does someone know they have the flu? The 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).

If someone in the household does come down with the flu, the Red Cross wants everyone to know the best way to care for them:

• Designate one person as the caregiver and have the other household members avoid close contact with that person so they won’t become sick.

• Make sure the person stays at home and rests until 24 hours after the fever is gone.

• Designate a sick room for the person if possible. If there is more than one sick person, they can share the sick room if needed. If there is more than one bathroom, designate one for those who are sick to use. Give each sick person their own drinking glass, washcloth and towel.

• Keep the following either in the sick room or near the person: tissues, a trash can lined with a plastic trash bag, alcohol-based hand rub, a cooler or pitcher with ice and drinks, a thermometer and a cup with straw or squeeze bottle to help with drinking. A humidifier will provide extra moisture, making it easier for the sick person to breathe. Sick people should wear a facemask, if available, when they leave the sick room or are around others.

• Give plenty of liquids (water and other clear liquids) at the first sign of flu and continue throughout the illness. People with the flu need to drink extra fluids to keep from getting dehydrated.

• Treat fever and cough with medicines that can be purchased at the store. Remember, when children are ill they should never be given aspirin or products containing aspirin - especially with the flu.

• If the person gets very sick, is pregnant or has a medical condition (like asthma) that puts them at higher risk of flu complications, call their doctor. They may need to be examined and might need antiviral medicine to treat the flu.

• Keep everyone’s personal items separate. All household members should avoid sharing pens, papers, clothes, towels, sheets, blankets, food or eating utensils unless cleaned between uses.

• Disinfect doorknobs, switches, handles, computers, telephones, bedside tables, bathroom sinks, toilets, counters, toys and other surfaces that are commonly touched around the home or workplace.

• Wash everyone’s dishes in the dishwasher or by hand using very hot water and soap.

• Wash everyone’s clothes in a standard washing machine. Use detergent and very hot water, tumble dry on a hot dryer setting and wash hands after handling dirty laundry.

• Wear disposable gloves when in contact with or cleaning up body fluids.

If someone thinks they have the flu, their health-care provider should be consulted. Seek medical care immediately if the person develops any of 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.

• Not waking up, being so irritable that the child does not want to be held or not interacting (children).

• Fever with a rash (children).

• No tears when crying or significantly fewer wet diapers than normal (children).

More information about how to help protect loved ones during this flu season is available on RedCross.org.

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