By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Forty-eight (48) of the 50 states are experiencing “widespread” influenza (flu) activity for the week ending Saturday, Feb. 3 (the latest figures as of press time) according to the CDC. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported that over 9 percent of outpatient visits for the week ending Feb. 3 were due to Influenza-Like Illness (ILI). Locally, the numbers aren’t in yet for February, but Cherokee Indian Hospital officials reported a total of 370 flu diagnoses for the month of January.
For the week ending Feb. 3, the North Carolina Division of Public Health reported a total of 140 total flu deaths since Oct. 1, 2017 and 34 in the week of Jan. 28 – Feb. 3, 2018.
According to the CDC, common flu symptoms include: a cough and/or sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, headaches and body aches, chills, fatigue, nausea and/or vomiting, diarrhea, and a temperature over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Cherokee Indian Hospital staff are working tirelessly to see every person in need of medical attention,” said Dr. Richard Bunio, CIHA executive clinical director. “We do encourage any patient who is ill to stay home until they have been without fever for at least 24 hours to help prevent further spread of the flu in this community. We are temporarily limiting visitors in the inpatient unit and the ER to help protect our patients and staff.”
CDC reports that the most common flu strain this season has been H3N2.
“The vaccine that we give is a quadravalent which includes vaccine for four different strains,” said Sally Penick, CIHA infection control manager. “There are two B strains and two A strains, one of which is H3N2.”
She encourages everyone to get the flu shot, “Don’t risk it. The more people who get their flu vaccinations, the more it can help prevent spreading it to our children and to our elders.”
Earlier in the month, Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed issued a memo regarding the flu. “The best way to protect this community from the spread of this disease is for people to stay home when ill when advised by their doctor. This helps to protect those at highest risk for serious flu complications such as the very young and elderly.”
To help facilitate people staying at home, Chief Sneed authorized a temporary change to the EBCI tribal employees personnel policy stating “tribal employees needing to use sick leave will not be required to provide a doctor’s statement unless their absence exceeds five work days”. The normal time period is three work days.
The N.C. Division of Public Health states several ways to avoid getting the flu, “…get vaccinated each year and practice good hand hygiene. To avoid giving the flu to others, stay home when you are sick, cough or sneeze into tissues and discard them properly, and wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an approved hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.”