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Flu cases up in Valley

VALLEY — Confirmed cases of the flu and flu-like illnesses are up significantly in the Valley area and its part of a nationwide trend.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, influenza was the primary cause for the deaths of more than 50 children in the United States thus far in the current flu season, which runs from October to March. According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, a total of 52 adults may have died from the flu from Jan. 11 through Jan. 31 of this year.

According to nurse Jennifer Hunt, manager of infection control for EAMC-Lanier Hospital, the number of positive cases that have been confirmed by the lab is up significantly from a year ago. “In the period from Jan. 1, 2017 to Feb. 5, 2018, we’ve doubled what we had from Dec. 1, 2016 to May 30, 2017, and we still have a long way to go this flu season,” she said. “It’s a problem, and not just in the local area. It’s widespread throughout Alabama and Georgia and throughout the U.S.”

Hunt said that the type A flu has been showing up more locally, though there have been some type B and a combination of both.

“We’ve had some people in the hospital with the flu or with flu-like symptoms,” she said.

The flu can last for a few days or up to a couple of weeks.

Hunt recommends getting a flu shot – if you already haven’t gotten one – and seeing your primary care physician if you start having the typical flu symptoms of a high fever and shortness of breath.

“Wash your hands frequently, and avoid contact with those who are sick,” Hunt said. “It’s always a good idea to seek medical advice from your doctor. Flu is something that does not discriminate. It affects people in all age groups.”

The flu is a serious illness and must be taken as such. People of all age groups have died from it.

“We had a late flu season last year,” Hunt said. “It was very mild most of the way through flu season, but picked up very late. There have been many more cases this year.”

EAMC-Lanier has taken some precautions.

“We’ve increased housekeeping in the emergency room lobby and in the common areas,” she said. “We’ve added more flu stations with hand sanitizer and Kleenex. We’ve asked people in the emergency room area to wear masks.”

Hunt said that getting a flu shot won’t guarantee that you won’t get the flu.

“If you do get it, the symptoms won’t be as bad as they otherwise could have been,” she said.

Amanda James, community educator with Main Street Family Urgent Care in Valley, said that lots of people have been coming in with flu-like symptoms.

“The waiting room has been filled the last few days,” she said. “We are having an insane flu season. Our CEO has sent us some recent statistics showing the increases we are seeing this year.”

James said that Main Street representatives have been making trips to local elementary schools talking to children about frequent hand washing and other advice in avoiding the flu.

Main Street Urgent Care is open from 8 a.m. till 8 p.m. EST Monday through Friday and from 8-6 on Saturday and Sunday. At least five people are there per shift. This includes someone at the front desk, three medical assistants, and nurse practitioner or a doctor.

A graph on the CDC website shows flu activity dating back the last eight years. The mildest season in that period was 2011-12, when just over 20 flu-related hospital visits per 100,000 people were recorded. The highest thus far was the 2014-15 season when 64 such visits took place. This year’s pace is running ahead of that.