Flu season slow in county, shots available to keep it that way

By Vivian Edersheim and George Kunke


Flu season slow in county, shots available to keep it that way

 

Three have died in state this month

 

By VIVIAN EDERSHEIM

SOUTH BEND – So far, the 2013 flu season is “typical” – that is, not unusually high – in Pacific County, according to Public Health Nurse Lori Ashley with the Pacific County Health Department. Raymond Elementary Principal Jesica Bryant agrees: There have been no unusual spikes in student absences due to the flu.

All that could change as new strains of flu emerge, according to the Washington State Department of Health website. “Flu is currently spreading in all areas of the state. Data suggests this flu season is more severe than the previous two seasons,” a question-and-answer portion of the Department of Health website states.

Statewide, health officials are concerned that the state could be in for a long, difficult flu season. On average, 27 people die from influenza in Washington. The flu is more severe and deadly with people that have underlying conditions. Three people have died in the state this year, including two adults and one child.

Pacific County has plenty of flu vaccine available to help prevent outbreaks here, Ashley said. “We have plenty of flu shots in the county; I gave 50 or so this morning,” she said Jan. 18.

The next clinic for flu shots will be Feb. 1 from 9 a.m. to 12 noon at the health department, located in the Courthouse Annex, 1216 West Robert Bush Drive, South Bend. There is no need to call ahead; those interested in getting the vaccine can just walk in during the clinic.

Those who cannot attend a clinic can call the health department at any time during business hours; “if a nurse is available, the flu shot will be given,” Ashley said. The health department number is 875-9343; hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday.

“There’s been a lot of media coverage about the flu this year,” Ashley said. “I don’t know if it’s any worse or better than in years past, but we’ve had a lot of media coverage. We’re just seeing a typical flu season. But we are encouraging people to get their flu vaccine to reduce the amount of flu in our community.”

“We haven’t seen anything too major yet,” Bryant said about Raymond Elementary. “It’s been a pretty normal flu season. Hopefully it will avoid us.” However, she said the flu hit later in the spring last year.

Good hygiene habits also can help reduce incidents of the flu, the experts advise. Basic preventive measures include:

· Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your upper sleeve, not your bare hand. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

· Using a tissue to wipe your nose, then throw the tissue away and wash your hands.

· Washing your hands frequently with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand gel or disposable wipes.

· Staying home and away from others while you or your family members are sick.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Practice good health habits.
  • Get plenty of sleep and exercise, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy food.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.

Influenza Widespread in USA

Across the USA, the 2012-2013 flu season has begun earlier than usual, and it's widespread  with cases continuing to increase. Most of the country is now experiencing high levels of influenza-like-illness.

The flu strains circulating in the country this year, especially the N3N2 version, tend to cause more severe disease. The prime flu season runs from October through April, and it usually peaks in January, February or later.

More than 112 million Americans have been vaccinated.

The flu is wrecking havoc in the south and recently has worsened in California.

For more information about flu prevalence and prevention in Washington State, visit the state Department of Health website at: http://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/IllnessandDisease/Flu/QuestionsandAnswers.aspx.

Pacific County Health Department’s website can be found at http://pacificcountyhealthdepartment.com/.