The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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December 29, 2012

Health care providers say flu appearing earlier in year

BECKLEY — Local health care providers have confirmed multiple cases of the flu over the past few weeks, a trend that usually isn’t seen until mid-January.

Nancy Ward, infection control nurse at Raleigh General Hospital, said many flu cases are being reported not only locally, but across the nation.

“The prominent strand we’re seeing is influenza AH3, which was not included in the vaccine, so even with the flu shot, you may not be protected.”

She said the symptoms of this strand of the flu are just like any other; low-grade fever, fatigue, chills, aches and coughing.

“We want to stress to the public to not visit hospitals if you have symptoms of the flu. If possible, avoid emergency room visits.”

Ward also suggests that people with flu-like symptoms avoid crowded areas to help limit spreading the virus.

Parents are urged to use discretion about sending ill children to school and attending work if they are feeling unwell themselves.

Ward said approximately 75 positive flu screens have been seen since Dec. 20 and an additional 25 cases before that.

Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital also confirmed 20 cases in the ER over the last week.

Although the prominent flu strand being reported is not included in the vaccine, Ward says she still encourages everyone to get a flu shot, as the severity can be minimized with the shot.

Elderly patients and young children are considered high risk for serious complications of the flu. Although children younger than 6 months are at high risk, they are too young to be vaccinated, so it is recommended that those who care for them be vaccinated.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting a flu vaccine, as well as taking preventative measures to stop the spread of germs and any other antiviral drugs your doctor has prescribed.

To avoid the spread of germs, cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, wash your hands often with soap and water, and try to avoid close contact with those who are already sick.

Most cases of the flu are mild and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs, but the CDC said there are emergency warning signs in both children and adults that would warrant a hospital trip.

In children, the signs are fast breathing or trouble breathing, bluish skin color, not drinking enough fluids, not interacting, being irritable and fever with a rash.

The CDC says to get medical help immediately if an infant is unable to eat, has trouble breathing, has no tears when crying, or has significantly fewer wet diapers than normal.

Signs in adults include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting.

If your symptoms are mild, the CDC recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone.

For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/flu.

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com

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