PMC advises region about elevated flu status
The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) has raised the influenza (flu) level from regional to widespread.
Widespread is the highest level of flu activity and indicates increased flu outbreaks in at least half of the Commonwealth.
Flu is a serious, infectious, viral respiratory disease that claims the lives of approximately 23,000 people each year. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 200,000 people are hospitalized each year in the United States from complications of flu.
The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that anyone six months and older get vaccinated against the flu. The vaccine protects against the most common flu strains.
The flu vaccine continues to be 40-60 percent effective. “Even if you still get sick after getting your flu shot, you may have a milder version of the infection and a shorter period of illness,” said Dr. Fadi Al Akhrass, medical director of infection control at Pikeville Medical Center (PMC).
“If you haven’t had your flu vaccination, we encourage you to get one as soon as possible,” added Dr. Al Akhrass. “It is not too late.”
According to Dr. Al Akhrass, it is especially important for certain groups of people to be vaccinated because they are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for someone at high risk for developing flu-related complications.
These groups include:
•Children younger than five years, but especially children younger than two years
•People 65 and older
•People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
•Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
Flu shots are available at any of Pikeville Medical Center’s family practice clinics.
Signs and symptoms of flu are fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children). Complications of flu include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical conditions such as congestive heart failure, diabetes and asthma.
According to the CDC, adults with flu can infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five days after becoming sick.
An accurate diagnosis of flu is very important because it is treatable with antiviral medications such as Tamiflu. “These types of medications work best when taken within the first forty-eight hours of illness,” explained Dr. Al Akhrass. “They are very effective in cutting down the severity of symptoms and shortening the duration of illness.”
The flu virus is spread through airborne droplets emitted by coughing and sneezing. People get sick from flu by touching objects or surfaces contaminated with the virus.
“The flu is a very contagious illness,” said Dr. Al Akhrass. “If you do get sick, you have to stay home and get plenty of rest and plenty of fluids.”
Those with flu should not come in contact with other people until they are free of fever for 24 hours.
“Hand hygiene is also extremely important in minimizing the spread of flu,” said Dr. Al Akhrass. “Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol based hand gel if you don’t have access to a sink.”
The Kentucky DPH urges people to practice good health and hygiene habits to prevent the spread of flu at home, work and school. Some viruses and bacteria can live two hours or longer on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs and desktops.
Remember to use a tissue when coughing and sneezing. Teach children to practice healthy hygiene habits at school to limit the spread of germs.
While flu is a serious viral disease, it is also a preventable one. The best method of prevention is to get a flu vaccination every year.
PMC is doing its part by requiring all employees to get vaccinated against the flu. This measure protects the patients and employees from exposure to this life threatening illness.
For more information about flu, visit www.cdc.gov/flu. To make an appointment with any of PMC’s family practice physicians, call 606-218-2213.