09/27/09 — Flu hits Wayne early

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Flu hits Wayne early

By Laura Collins
Published in News on September 27, 2009 2:00 AM

Although it is not officially flu season, Wayne County health officials say early numbers are pointing toward a busy year.

Flu season traditionally runs from October through February, said Jeff Brogneaux, emergency preparedness coordinator at Wayne Memorial Hospital, but this year's season has started early.

"It's been a lot (of cases). More than we've seen in the last several years," he said. "The last couple years have been fairly mild."

Brogneaux said some of the cause of the increased cases the hospital has seen might not be because there are more cases, but that there is more concern.

"There are a lot of worried 'well'," he said. "Lots of people with mild symptoms that think they have the flu."

Brogneaux said the vast majority of flu cases tested -- over 90 percent -- have been H1N1, although he said the strain shouldn't cause any more concern than the traditional flu.

"Truth be told, the fatality rate is very minimal, it's less than one-tenth of 1 percent," he said. "But every year 36,000 people die from the flu in the U.S. We're not seeing anything even close to that with swine flu."

He encourages people to determine how serious their symptoms are before deciding to go to the hospital.

"If you have the flu, stay home, stay in bed," he said. "If they're really sick, they're welcome to come, but we'd like to reserve the emergency department for emergencies. We don't want anyone to not come in if they're in need, but if everyone comes to the emergency department, it's no longer an emergency department, it's a waiting room."

He suggested that people who have mild symptoms avoid contact with anyone until they have been without fever for 24 hours, and if they have concerns, to call their family doctor.

Wayne County Public Schools are also seeing a high number of students with the flu for this time of the year. Allison Pridgen, director of student support services, said the district likely has double the number of students with the flu than it did at this time last year, although no exact numbers were available.

"Typically flu season doesn't rear it's ugly head until October or November," she said. "But we're seeing a lot of the flu for this time of the year."

She said the elementary, middle and high schools all have cases of the flu, but said it's more common in the elementary schools.

As of Friday, no schools had a 15 percent or greater absentee rate.