The influenza virus is spreading rapidly and health officials are urging everyone to take greater precaution to prevent contracting the virus and spreading it to others.
Nancy Anthony, infection control nurse at Greater Regional Medical Center, said the virus is so bad, the medical center is restricting visitors and asking anyone with a cough or flu symptoms to use masks, which are available at all the check-in desks and nurses’ stations.
Louann Snodgrass, executive director of continuum of care at Greater Regional said there is a lot of illness this time of year.
Because it is not a requirement of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for doctors to report influenza cases, it is difficult to identify the exact number of cases and how that compares to previous years.
Attendance Secretary at Creston High School Sue Dake reported the virus is under control.
“We had a high number of cases before winter break and just after break,” said Dake. “We haven’t had any confirmed cases in the last couple weeks other than 24-hour bugs and colds.”
Jodi Johnson, nurse at Creston Middle School, said there have been cases of illness but leave it to the local clinic to diagnose students.
Who is at risk?
“With every flu season, the elderly and young are most at risk of becoming ill,” said Anthony. “Their immune system is either not as developed or weakened.”
Because infants under the age of 6 months cannot receive the flu vaccination, everyone around the infant is encouraged to get vaccinated to protect the infant.
According to the Center for Disease Control, pregnant women are five times more likely to become very ill if they acquire influenza while pregnant or immediately after delivering. Pregnant women who are severely ill with respiratory infection have increased risk of preterm labor.
“Pregnant women can get the vaccination in any trimester,” said Anthony.
When to seek medical attention
Anthony said if people experience flu symptoms, and are unable to battle those symptoms, medical attention should be sought. Symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, head and body aches, chills, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
“Antivirals are available within the first 48 hours,” said Anthony. “They (antiviral medications) are prescription, and can get it from their physician. Tamiflu will help.”
To avoid infecting others with the flu, Anthony said the best ways to prevent spread is to stay home and always get your flu shot.
“We have a limited vaccination in Union County,” said Anthony. “Vaccines are available (at Greater Regional) for children under 3.”
Anthony said Hy-Vee and Walmart stores may still have the vaccine available and to also check with Adams and Taylor counties.
“You’ll have to call first,” said Anthony. “There’s not a lot available so you’ll have to do a little legwork.”
Anthony also reminds of the importance of good handwashing and to cover your cough.
For more information about the flu and flu prevention, visit www.idph.state.ia.us.