Many people are already starting to feel that tired, run-down, achiness brought on by influenza, commonly known as the flu. Influenza is an extremely contagious viral disease that typically sweeps through large groups of people who share indoor space, such as in schools, offices and nursing homes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu season is coming early to Ohio. "Seasonal influenza is an illness that causes fever, headache, tiredness, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion and body aches," explained Salem Community Hospital's Director of Quality Improvement and Infection Control, Lyn Pethtel, BS, SM, RN, CIC. "The virus that causes the flu is spread from person to person by droplets that are coughed or sneezed into the air, or by handling items contaminated by an infected person."
Since the flu is spread by contact, Lyn urges people to be vigilant about covering their mouths with tissues when they cough and washing their hands frequently or using hand sanitizer.
Influenza tends to start suddenly. A person may feel fine one hour and have a high fever the next. Flu symptoms include:
- Fever - usually between 101 F and 102 F, but occasionally as high as 106 F - sometimes alternating with chills
It's Flu Season in Ohio
Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Current Influenza Activity Levels: December 2-8, 2012
Ohio: Widespread- Outbreaks of influenza in at least half of the regions.
Other ODH indicators supporting increased flu activity include:
Indicator Week of December 2-8, 2012 % Change from Prior Week
Thermometer Sales 1,604 11.03%
Fever and Influenza-like ED Visits 3.56% 16.29%
Flu-related Internet Searches 4.24% 21.23%
- Sore throat
-?Dry, hacking cough
- Aching muscles
- General fatigue and weakness
-?Nasal congestion, sneezing
Prevent the Flu
ODH estimates that on average, 3,000 Ohioans die from pneumonia and/or influenza each year. Not all of these deaths are directly related to the flu but many are and possibly could be prevented with a flu vaccine.
Researchers divide influenza viruses into three general categories: types A, B, and C. Although all three types of viruses can mutate or change into new strains, type A influenza mutates often, yielding new strains of the virus every few years.
"This means that it is difficult to develop a permanent immunity to influenza," Lyn stated. "Even if you develop antibodies against the flu virus one year, those antibodies may not protect you against a new strain of the virus the next year.
"Because the flu virus strain varies from year to year, the easiest way to protect yourself from the flu is to get a seasonal flu vaccine every year. It's not too late to get a flu shot. Usually, it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to take effect and build up immunity in people's bodies."
Salem Community Hospital
seeks to protect patients from the flu
Last year for the first time, federal health officials began a "universal recommendation" for flu shots. According to the CDC, everyone older than six months should be vaccinated, with rare exceptions.
This is especially important for people who are at risk for serious health complications, including infants, the elderly, pregnant women and those with chronic health issues such as asthma, diabetes or lung disease--the kind of people most likely to be found in hospitals, nursing homes and clinics. That's why the CDC stresses the importance of flu shots for another group: People who live with or care for these at-risk groups, including health care workers.
More than half of the hospitals nationwide are requiring their workers to get flu shots. For the first time, Salem Community Hospital is requiring all of its employees to be vaccinated. Those who decline to be vaccinated for health or other reasons will have to wear a mask throughout the flu season. This is another sign of the importance that health care providers place on flu shots.
To further help prevent the spread of influenza viruses and protect patients, the Hospital asks
those who are not feeling well to refrain from visiting hospitalized patients. Instead, they are requested to telephone the patient or send an e-card via the Hospital's website at www.salemhosp.com. Individuals who feel they must visit a patient can also request a mask as they enter the hospital.
"Influenza is a serious and sometimes life threatening illness," Lyn concluded. "Flu vaccination is really the best way to protect our patients, ourselves, our family members, co-workers and the healthcare work environment."