02/10/08 — Flu staking its toll on county

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Flu staking its toll on county

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 10, 2008 2:03 AM

Flu season has hit Wayne County -- hard, local health officials say.

From schools to the workplace, hundreds of Wayne County residents are facing the harsh symptoms of the flu bug -- fever, exhaustion, congestion.

Health Director James Roosen said the county health department has seen "a pretty dramatic increase in the number of seasonal flu cases that have been diagnosed."

The state regularly monitors influenza-like illness during the flu season -- the peak is typically December through March.

"Influenza-like illness" is defined as having a temperature of 100 degrees or greater and cough and sore throat. Treatment should begin within 48 hours of symptoms onset, and can reduce symptoms and illness duration.

While not everyone will seek medical attention and instead opt to treat symptoms with over-the-counter remedies, Wayne Memorial Hospital officials also say they have seen a marked rise in flu screenings, said Cathy Hollowell, manager of infection control.

On Friday, there had been 195 screens, 52 of which were positive, Mrs. Hollowell said.

"Nine of the positives requir-ed admission," she added.

Dr. Dave Tayloe of Goldsboro Pediatrics tells the same story.

He said his office has seen "lots of sick children."

Schools are likewise noting a rise in absences. At Spring Creek High School, where the population is 965, there were 134 absences on Monday, with 20 sent home during the school day. On Tuesday, 147 absences were reported, with 22 sent home during the day.

Children, Roosen said, "are like a canary in the mine," a barometer reflecting what is going on in community health.

So, hearing that there are many children suffering from illness is a good indicator that adults are having to struggle with it, too, he said.

How do you keep from getting sick? The same old advice applies, Roosen and Mrs. Hollowell said.

"Respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette measures prevent the spread of influenza," Mrs. Hollowell said. "Frequent hand washing and cough hygiene are the best ways to prevent the spread of these and other infections. Cough in your sleeve when possible as opposed to your hands. This prevents the spread of droplets."

Those "droplets," Roosen said, originate from mucus and saliva, "so when someone covers their mouth when they sneeze or cough and then touches a doorknob or a railing, it's easily spread."

Inhalation of airborne droplets is another way of contracting the virus, he added.

And don't despair, you can avoid spending a week or more sick in bed.

It's not too late to get a flu shot, Roosen said.

"People can still be protected against seasonal flu. We'll be happy to give them a flu shot for free if they can't afford it."

For those already exhibiting symptoms, he suggested, "If you're sick, don't go to work. Practice good personal hygiene -- use a tissue to cover your face when you cough, throw the tissue away, wash your hands."

Not to be confused with the flu, Mrs. Hollowell mentioned there is also a GI virus circulating in the community. The recommendations for treatment are the same in terms of hygiene, except for one.

"Hand washing with soap and water is recommended as opposed to alcohol-based hand rubs," she said.