Special to The Prairie Press

Influenza still expanding

Seasonal influenza activity increased sharply this past week in the United States and have prompted Paris Community Hospital/Family Medical Center to enact temporary visitor restrictions, according to Erin Frank, marketing director for the PCM/FMC.

These restrictions for inpatient areas, as recommended by the Illinois Department of Public Health, will remain in effect until further notice. The restrictions are as follows:

Limit the number of visitors to two at a time.

No visitors under age 18.

Visitors to pediatric patients should be parents and grandparents only.

Do not visit if you have a fever (100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher), sore throat, or cough.

Visitors who have any of these symptoms, but still need to enter the facility, should obtain a mask and disinfect their hands at one of respiratory hygiene stations located within PCH/FMC.

“We do know that our facilities have had some positive influenza tests,” said Amy Arnett, RN, infection control manager at PCH/FMC. “However, the quantity of individuals who have had the respiratory flu is unknown, because not all patients with respiratory symptoms need to be tested. The provider will determine the testing and treatment appropriate for each patient.”

Arnett emphasized the importance of early treatment with antiviral medications, such as Tamiflu. Influenza is a viral condition and cannot be cured with medications. But antiviral medications — if obtained soon after onset — can decrease symptoms and the length of illness.

The number of states reporting widespread flu activity jumped from 23 to 36, the proportion of samples testing positive for influenza at clinical laboratories went from 14.0 percent to 22.4 percent, and the percentage of people seeking outpatient care for influenza-like illness (ILI) increased from 3.5 percent to 5.0percent over last week’s report.

While flu vaccination is still recommended for people who have not yet gotten vaccinated, antiviral drugs are an important second line of defense that can be used to treat flu illness. CDC recommends the use of antiviral drugs as early as possible to treat flu illness in people who are very sick with flu and those at high risk of serious flu complications.

Illinois and Indiana are among the 21 states experiencing high influenza activity. Others include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.

A spokesman for the CDC emphasized it is not too late to receive a flu shot. The first and most important step in preventing flu is to get a flu vaccination each year. CDC also recommends everyday preventive actions — like staying away from people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes and frequent handwashing — to help slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory (nose, throat, and lungs) illnesses, like flu.

Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by tiny droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.

It may be possible to transmit the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Although people with the flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after their illness begins, some otherwise healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others with flu viruses for an even longer time. The time from when a person is exposed to flu virus and infected to when symptoms begin is about one to four days, with an average of about two days.

People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms that usually start suddenly, not gradually:

Fever or feeling feverish/chills

Cough

Sore throat

Runny or stuffy nose

Muscle or body aches

Headaches

Fatigue (very tired)

Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in young children than in adults.

It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.

Influenza, commonly called "the flu," is an infection of the respiratory tract caused by the influenza virus. Compared with most viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, influenza infection often causes a more severe illness. Typical influenza illness includes fever (usually 100 degrees F to 103 degrees F in adults and often even higher in children) and respiratory symptoms, such as cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, as well as headache, muscle aches and extreme fatigue. Although nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can sometimes accompany influenza infection, especially in children, these symptoms are rarely the primary symptoms. The term "stomach flu" is a misnomer sometimes used to describe gastrointestinal illnesses caused by organisms other than influenza viruses.

Most people who get the flu recover completely in on to two weeks, but some people develop serious and potentially life-threatening medical complications, such as pneumonia.

Over the past decade, influenza and pneumonia have been associated with an average of 3,500 deaths a year in Illinois. Since 1992, the highest number of flu and pneumonia deaths was the 4,021 recorded in 1993. Flu-related complications can occur at any age, but the elderly and people with chronic health problems are much more likely to develop serious complications after influenza infection than are young, healthier people. During most flu seasons, which typically run from October through May, between 10 percent and 20 percent of the population is infected with influenza viruses. More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications each year in the U.S.

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