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Tue September 17, 2013
Local Health Clinics See an Increase in Flu-like Symptoms
Some health experts say they are concerned about a possible early start to the flu season.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports last year’s flu season resulted in more hospitalizations of people over 65 than any flu season on record. According to the CDC, each year, up to 220,000 people are hospitalized and an average 24,000 patients die nationwide as a result of influenza.
Several Triad health clinics and hospitals are starting to receive the first batches of this year’s flu vaccine. It can take up to two weeks to develop an immune response, so health officials are urging people to get the vaccination sooner than later.
“We have seen over 50 patients in the past week or so who have had flu-like symptoms and those would be fever, cough, sore throat and headache and sometimes people experience a stuffy nose, so we are seeing more patients with those symptoms coming in to our center,” says Dr. Granada Neil, medical director for Doctors Express in High Point.
Neil says with or without a vaccination, you still need to protect yourself.
• Bring your own pen – to the bank, grocery store, even to touch the ATM. Anything a sick person touches can harbor germs, including money, mail, ATM keypads, elevator buttons, etc.
• Use paper – replace hand towels in bathrooms with paper towels. They’re not as pretty, but paper towels can help get rid of a ton of germs that live in damp towels.
• Wash hands frequently – use soap, warm water and rinse long enough to say the alphabet or sing “Happy Birthday.” Recent studies show plain soap and water work just fine.
• Use a proper hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) anytime you touch anything. Make sure you use sanitizer, even under fingernails, where germs hide.
• Clean with disinfectant – viruses and bacteria can live up to two hours or longer on doorknobs, toys, TV remote controls, keyboards, mouse pads, refrigerator handles, counter tops, railings, faucets, bathroom floors and more.
The U.S. flu season can run from October through May. The vaccine is not recommended for those with severe allergies like eggs. Health officials say the vaccination is particularly important for those at greater risk or those caring for others at risk of developing complications, including: pregnant women; children younger than 5 years old; and adults 50 years old or older.
Neil says Doctors Express in High Point has this year’s influenza vaccine in stock. Meanwhile, the Forsyth County Department of Public Health will offer free flu shots for the public starting October 1. The Guilford County Department of Public Health says it is still waiting for more shipments of the vaccine, and will begin offering the shots to the public sometime within the next few weeks.