(Riverton, Wyo.) – After getting an early start, this year’s flu season is also shaping up to be more severe than usual. Reports of influenza-like illnesses are already nearing what have been peak levels during moderately severe seasons.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a total of 29 states and New York City are reporting high levels of influenza-like illnesses, and another nine states are reporting moderate levels. Media reports across the country have been highlighting busy emergency departments – some of which have had to divert ambulances to due to overcrowding – where front-line physicians say the worst is yet to come.
In fact, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized due to the flu each year, and, depending on the year, as many as 49,000 people die. The current flu hospitalization rate is already high for this time of year, at 8.1 per 100,000 people, and the CDC has received reports of 18 influenza-related pediatric deaths.
“We’re in the midst of a nasty flu season, due in part to the prevalence of the particularly virulent H3N2 flu strain,” said Dr. Brad North, DO, Riverton Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Department Medical Director. “To stay healthy, everyone over the age of 6 months should get a flu vaccine and take some everyday preventive measures to protect themselves and others.”
Tips for Flu Prevention
To help keep yourself – and your family – healthy and flu free, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the following:
· Get a flu vaccine. This is the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses.
· Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
· Wash your hands often with soap and water. When you can’t wash your hands, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizing rub.
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
· Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
· If you are sick with a flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (except to get medical care or for other necessities). Symptoms include fever, cough, fatigue, head and body aches, and runny nose.
· While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
· Take anti-viral drugs if your doctor prescribes them. Started as soon as possible after becoming ill, antiviral treatment is recommended for any patient with confirmed or suspected influenza who are hospitalized, seriously ill, or ill and at high risk of serious influenza-related complications, including young children, people 65 and older, people with certain underlying medical conditions and pregnant women.
–Riverton Memorial Hospital