01/03/13 — Officials: Get flu shot

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Officials: Get flu shot

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 3, 2013 1:46 PM

The new year might not have officially ushered in this year's flu season in Wayne County, but health officials agree something is in the air and are giving fair warning to those who haven't yet gotten the flu shot.

Frequent hand-washing is also recommended to prevent the spread of whatever is going around, Health Director Davin Madden said.

Coming off of the Christmas holidays -- the Health Department is just one of the county offices that was closed over the past week -- Wednesday marked the return of staff, while schools also resumed.

Certainly, during the winter months, when people are more confined indoors or in commonly crowded conditions, transmission of illness goes up, officials said.

"I do know that there's been some increase in upper respiratory (illnesses) going around across eastern North Carolina," Madden said. "I know that there has been a significant increase in ILI, influenza-like illnesses. We have definitely seen an increase in that over the month of December and that's not unusual to see influenza-like illnesses going up this time of year."

In some medical circles, an upper respiratory infection is another name for the common cold, resulting in more doctor visits and absences from school and work. Typical symptoms include, but are not limited to, runny nose, sneezing, cough and sore throat.

Treatment depends on whether the infection is bacterial or viral. Antibiotics are only effective in the case of a bacterial infection, more in the strep and urinary tract category. "The main thing for people to remember is it's not too late to get a flu shot," the health director said. "We haven't got into the 'true meat' of the flu. Anyone 6 months and older needs a flu vaccine.

"Make sure to remind people to monitor their hand-washing. People out traveling during the holidays, make sure they wash their hands. A lot of illness gets transmitted just through all the people traveling through and coming in contact with one another. If we stay fairly close to trend, we probably should see some uptick of flu as we get more into the month of January."

Other precautions popping up around the country include policies restricting hospital visitation by potential illness carriers.

A sign at the entrance of Kitty Askins Hospice Center, for example, advises visitors with contagious symptoms such as fever against coming in contact with patients there.

A similar message is posted at all entrances at Wayne Memorial Hospital, in both English and Spanish, said Georgia Dees, director of public relations.

"We don't have anything in place right now," she said of specific policies preventing visitors, adding, "We have seen plenty of flu cases.

"The hospital does have a sign that is out all the time, from infection control, with a huge 'Stop' sign on it alerting visitors to the hospital, anyone with flu-like symptoms-- fever, headache, cough -- to refrain from visiting until the symptoms subside."

Hand-washing stations are also positioned throughout the building, and they are patronized often by staff and visitors, Mrs. Dees said.

Meanwhile, regular flu clinic hours at the Health Department resumed this week, Madden said. The clinic is open Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. until 6 p.m.

The vaccine is available to anyone over 6 months of age, including adults. Those 19 and older may only receive the injectable vaccine.