It’s not too late to avoid the flu

WESTFIELD – Many Americans are spending the beginning of the New Year in bed, taken down by the flu in numbers normally not seen until much later in the flu season.
Those numbers are rising and this year’s strain appears to be especially nasty.
Locally the flu outbreak has prompted Noble Hospital to lay down some new rules.  They’re asking that people who feel ill refrain from visiting patients in the hospitals.
Noble’s Vice President of Medical Affairs  Dr. Stanley Strzempko said the policy is informal, but visitors should take heed.
“Last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were the three busiest days the hospital has had since October of 2009,” said Strzempko. “It’s all flu-related.”
The last time the ER was that busy was during the 2009 swine flu outbreak. Strzempko said the strain of flu being treated currently is the typical virus.
“The CDC (Center for Disease Control) calls it ILI – Influenza-Like Illness,” said Strzempko. “We’re seeing a heavy outpatient flu-driven business.”
Strzempko said the CDC recommends initiating Tamiflu, an anti-viral, for patients who seek medical attention within 48 hours of the onset of the flu.
“There’s not a lot of evidence that suggests that if you wait four or five days that Tamiflu will not help,” he said.
Tamiflu was also used to treat swine flu.
“It is a broad anti-viral so it doesn’t target a specific strain of virus,” said Strzempko.
The best way to avoid contracting the flu, he said, is to get a flu shot.
“Get the vaccine,” Strzempko said. “It’s that simple. If you get it, you will, in all likelihood, not get the flu or not get it fully.”
Strzempko said currently only about one-third of the U.S. population has received a flu shot.
“You have folks who feel it’s not in their best interest to get vaccinated, but it’s safe and effective,” he said. “Nobody likes getting a shot, but it’s better than the full flu.”
Strzempko said it is not too late for people to get vaccinated.
‘The health department has several lots of the vaccine and (pharmacies) have it – it’s not too late,” he said.
When flu-like symptoms begin, getting to a medical provider is important in order to get the Tamiflu prescription. For those who choose to ride out the flu, Strzempko said Tylenol and ibuprofen will knock down fever and aches, and fluids and rest are essential.

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