By SCOTT MCKIE B.P
ONE FEATHER STAFF
It’s flu time, and health officials in Cherokee are asking that community members take steps to help stop the spread of the illness.
“We have had 68 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza over the past two weeks diagnosed through Cherokee Indian Hospital clinics, ER, ICC, and other satellite clinics,” said Dr. Michael Toedt, Cherokee Indian Hospital executive director of clinical services.
“Not every case has to be lab-confirmed,” he explained. “There have been 583 cases of influenza-like illness seen in our health system over the past 30 days. This is more than our usual caseload, and it represents the onset of the flu season.”
There have been a total of three flu-related deaths in North Carolina since October according to the North Carolina Dept. of Health and Human Services.
“The best things people can do to prevent the flu are to 1. get the flu vaccine, 2. take everyday precautions to stop the spread of germs (cover your nose/mouth when you sneeze, wash your hands, if you have flu-like illness, stay home until at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, etc.), and 3. take flu antiviral medication if your doctor prescribes them,” says Dr. Toedt.
If you do come down with flu-like symptoms, the CDC states, “Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If you get sick with flu symptoms, in most cases, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care. If, however, you have symptoms of flu and are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your health care provider.”
When asked about the severity of the flu situation in Cherokee, Dr. Toedt commented, “It is early in the flu season to say anything about whether the viruses that are circulating this year are more or less severe than in previous years, but we do know that this year’s flu season is starting earlier than it has started in recent years.”
Know what to do about the flu
By DORIS BONILLA, RN, BSN, MS, MPH
In Cherokee, we are experiencing a higher number than usual of cases of influenza. The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It is an acute illness that can cause mild to severe illness. Do I need to go to the Emergency Room if I am only a little sick? NO. The Emergency Room is for people who are very sick. If you go to the ER, you may catch the flu from people who do have it.
The flu poses a great threat to certain people: Pregnant women, children and elders. These groups are at high risk for complications from the flu. Those that can be especially hard hit are ones with diabetes, asthma or heart and lung diseases. Pneumonia and bronchitis are examples of serious flu-related complications.
Signs and symptoms of flu are:
Runny or stuffy nose
Muscle or body aches
Fatigue (feeling very tired)
Vomiting and diarrhea (this is more common in children)
You need to get a flu shot each year because the influenza viruses are always changing and protection dwindles away over time. For this reason, you should get a flu shot every year. Children younger than six months or those with severe allergies to eggs should not get the flu shot. If you have had a severe reaction to a flu shot in the past, do not get the flu shot.
Flu experts work year round to identify the flu viruses that are most likely to cause illness the next flu season. The flu vaccine we get each year protects against those identified viruses. The vaccine does not protect against different flu viruses not in the vaccine or the common cold.
Once you take the flu shot, it takes two weeks for your body to develop protection for you from the flu virus. During that time period, you should not visit people you know have the flu. Also, don’t visit the hospital or nursing home patients if you can avoid it during the flu season.
If you visit the hospital, there are masks at all reception desks for your protection. If you have signs or symptoms of the flu yourself and come to the hospital for care, ask for a mask to keep from spreading the flu. If you are seated in a waiting room near a person who is coughing and sneezing, feel free to move or get a mask to protect yourself.
In addition to the flu vaccine, you can protect yourself by washing your hands with warm water and soap often. Hand gel can also help protect you. A distance of about six feet is also protective.
Doris is the infection control nurse at Cherokee Indian Hospital.