Flu season peaks early

Free-Flu-ShotsWhile the flu makes its early appearance in the state and around the country, the Milaca area has seen its share of the seasonal bug.

“We’ve admitted 13 people so far with the flu and last year we had zero [at this time],” said Fairview spokesperson Jennifer Cottew. “All of our clinics in the area and our emergency room have seen quite the surge of patients for the flu.”

According to Cottew, Fairview’s contagious and infectious disease specialist has labeled this a “severe flu season,” but reminds people that is not unusual.

“They come in cycles,” Cottew said. The last severe season was nearly four years ago when the H1N1 virus peaked in 2009.

“We’ve been encouraging people to stay home rather than come visit if they have infectious symptoms — and that’s really the case any time of the year,” said Fairview’s Ryan Davenport.

For those experiencing severe symptoms, Cottew said they should seek medical attention right away.

“It’s really important for people who do get sick to come in within the first 48 hours,” she said. “It’s the only time anti-viral medications are given. By day four or five, there’s nothing much they can do.”

Also, Milaca Clinic Dr. Beth Wheatley said the anti-viral medications are often reserved for the most at-risk individuals — those with compromised immune systems and those who work with them.

“We want to be cautious because we don’t want to build up an immunity to these medications,” Wheatley said.

Cottew said many people have also been confusing the Norovirus, which is commonly known as the stomach flu, with influenza. Patients suffering from Norovirus can experience vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps, symptoms that differ from influenza.

“Influenza is going to hit you like a ton of bricks,” Cottew said. “It’s going to make you very tired. You’ll have a fever and body aches.”

While some have pointed to the severity of this flu season as an indication the vaccine is not effective, medical professionals say that is not the case.

“The flu shot is never perfect,” Wheatley said. “But our influenza B is doing very well.”

Cottew said the vast majority of Fairview admissions for influenza across the state have been for type A, with 120 patients. Influenza type B has accounted for just nine cases among admitted patients.

For the full story, see the Thursday, Jan. 17 print edition of the Times.