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Health care providers ready for flu season

October 4, 2018

BULLHEAD CITY — Health care professionals are prepared for the 2018-19 flu season, which officially began Monday.

Western Arizona Regional Medical Center is ready for the inevitable onslaught of patients who will start showing up later in the fall.

It was mid-June when the last patient tested positive for the flu, said the hospital’s interventionist, Linda Russell.

WARMC again is offering free flu vaccinations to all of its employees, volunteers and physicians.

“Getting immunized is the best way to prevent getting or spreading the flu,” said Jena Morga, WARMC’s director of marketing. “Although vaccination is each person’s choice, we strongly encourage everyone to participate to protect themselves and others.”

More than 80,000 people across the United States died last year as a result of the flu. It was the highest number of deaths in more than 40 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As of Sept. 22, the state of Arizona reported that 1,152 people died from the flu and pneumonia during the 2017-18 season. Only 697 people died the year before, the Arizona Department of Health Services said in its latest surveillance report.

The state doesn’t require reporting of influenza-related deaths. Officials instead rely on death certificates, not laboratory-confirmed deaths. Flu and pneumonia deaths are grouped together because many flu deaths are a result of infection complications and ADHS points out that not all pneumonia deaths on death certificates resulted from the flu.

The CDC advises everyone 6 months or older to get a flu shot, especially people at high risk for developing serious complications from influenza, including young children, adults older than 65, pregnant women, and individuals with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and lung disease or compromised immune systems.

The CDC also recommends people get vaccinated by the end of October so they are as effectively protected as possible once the number of cases begins to surge. It takes about two weeks for protective antibodies to form after obtaining the vaccine.

“Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial and vaccination should continue to be offered throughout flu season, even into January or later,” the CDC stressed.

Early intervention is key, Morga said.

“If you think you have the flu, visit your doctor or an urgent care as soon as possible. They may be able to prescribe antiviral drugs to treat flu illness and prevent serious flu complications,” she said. “High-risk individuals with the flu are particularly in need of prompt treatment.”

While the flu vaccination isn’t bullet-proof, the CDC considers it the “first and most important” preventive measure because it can reduce flu illnesses, doctor’s visits, days missed from work and school because of the flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospital stays. It also has been shown to significantly reduce a child’s risk of dying from influenza. Data even suggests that if someone gets sick after vaccination, their illness may be milder.

Adults are contagious one day before getting symptoms and up to five days after getting sick. Children and people with compromised immune systems can be contagious for up to two weeks.

Here are ways to avoid spreading the flu:

Try to avoid close contact with sick people.If ill, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.If you are sick with flu-like illness, the CDC recommends you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone — except for medical care or other necessities. The guide to use is that your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. After using a tissue, throw it in the trash and wash your hands.Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

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