Hospital Takes Steps on Outbreak of Flu
Because of the severity of the flu outbreak in Moore County, FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital is asking visitors to stay away to minimize the risk of spreading the virus.
FirstHealth of the Carolinas is asking residents to delay visits to friends or relatives in the hospital if they are experiencing any flu symptoms.
Forty-five cases of the flu were diagnosed this weekend in the emergency room (ER), according to hospital officials.
Jayne Lee, FirstHealth's infection control director, said the hospital ER staff diagnosed 250 cases of flu in February. That is double the number of cases this time a year ago.
February is usually a peak month for flu season, but Lee said this past month was the worst since December 2003.
"We are hoping now that it is March we will start to see a downward trend," Lee said.
Lee said patients with the flu who enter the ER risk spreading the disease to others.
"Unless it is within 24 hours of the first symptoms onset, there is really nothing we can do for them," Lee said of flu patients.
Patients without flu symptoms are being encouraged to visit immediate family only if necessary. Children age 12 and under should not visit the hospital at all during the flu season.
Influenza (commonly called the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Infection with influenza viruses can result in severe illness and life-threatening complications.
Symptoms of flu include fever (usually high), headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. Gastro-intestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, are much more common among children than adults.
Lee said part of the reason for the increase in flu cases could be that this year's flu vaccine didn't treat the current common strain of the virus.
Those who received the vaccination and still get the flu will likely suffer less.
"If you had it (flu shot), you probably will only be sick four or five days," Lee said. "Without it, it will be like seven to 10 days."
Influenza viruses are spread when a person who has the flu coughs, sneezes or speaks and spreads the virus into the air and other people inhale the virus. The viruses can also be spread when a person touches a surface with flu viruses on it (for example, a door handle) and then touches his or her nose or mouth.
The best ways to prevent the spread of the flu is to avoid close contact with others, stay at home when you are sick, cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, wash your hands often, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth in case you have touched a contaminated surface.
Some complications caused by flu include bacterial pneumonia, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes. Children may get sinus problems and ear infections.
Anyone who develops the flu is urged to get plenty of rest, drink a lot of liquids, and avoid using alcohol and tobacco. You can take medications to relieve the symptoms of flu, but never give aspirin to children or teenagers who have flu-like symptoms -- and particularly fever -- without first speaking to a doctor.
Those at special risk from complications of flu, should consult their health-care provider when symptoms begin. This includes people 65 years or older, people with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women and children. A doctor may choose to use certain antiviral drugs to treat the flu.
Contact Tom Embrey at 693-2473 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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