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Flu bug's bite in Wilson not as severe
Jan 18, 2013 4:00 pm
Every year it's a challenge all across the United States with it's onslaught of fear and loathing - it's the flu.
More formally known as influenza, the flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild-to-severe illness and, at times, can lead to death, usually in infants, the elderly and people who have other health problems.
The Tennessee Department of Health warns people across the state that influenza activity is widespread across most of the U.S., including Tennessee, with intense activity in some regions of the state and more flu activity overall than in recent flu seasons.
For most, the only way to fight back is through prevention by having a flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports people who have had this year’s vaccine are about 60 percent less likely to have to visit a medical provider for treatment of influenza illness than unvaccinated people.
The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly, bringing with it a host of symptoms, including fever or feeling feverish/chills (not everyone with flu will have a fever), cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
Lee Wood, director of the Wilson County Health Department, said he's seen plenty of flu cases since the season began last fall.
"We've seen patients with the flu or with flu-like symptoms," Wood said. "But we have to send their tests to the state labs to have it confirmed. Nationally, it's hard for us to track because we don't have the data. The best yard stick I have is we've given out around 700 free flu vaccinations from last fall until [Thursday] to children and adults."
He said the health department no longer has free flu vaccinations for adults or older children.
"All our free vaccinations are gone, except for the ones for children ages 6 months to 2 years old," Wood said.
Wood said children in school are more likely to be exposed to the flu because they are in such close quarters. Workers sometimes expose co-workers when they don't stay home when sick.
"You can't shed the flu for a while," he said. "Even if you're feeling better, complete all the medications you're given and stay home, if possible."
Donna Lawson, nurse coordinator for Wilson County schools, said the schools are seeing their fair share of the flu, but things are moving along. Unlike some schools, such as ones in Overton County, Wilson County schools have not had to close schools.
"We staying in school," Lawson said. "A big difference is having school nurses who can send a student home if they need to so are schools are doing good."
Winfree Bryant Middle School Head Nurse Sheila Neal was still sending students home Wednesday she suspected had the flu, but she thinks there are few cases of late.
"It's a little better," Neal said.
While the health department has run out of free flu vaccine for most people, Woods said anyone can get the flu shot or nasal mist from private providers. He said it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to begin working, according to doctors at the health department.
According to the CDC, most people who get influenza will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some people will develop complications, such as pneumonia, as a result of the flu.
Pneumonia, bronchitis and sinus and ear infections are three examples of complications from flu. The flu can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic congestive heart failure may see the condition worsen.
Woods offered common-sense advice under the heading, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
"Wash your hands, and cough into the crook of your arm," he said.