What to do to prevent the flu

Staff writer

Flu season is rearing its ugly head and while no official cases have been reported in the county, influenza is finding its way around town.

St. Luke Hospital said the lack of reported cases of the respiratory flu does not mean it is not in the area, it just means that no one has experienced extreme enough cases to warrant hospital care.

“We can’t tell when flu season will be here in full swing, but we can be prepared for when it does,” said Brenda Rhodes, infection preventionist with St. Luke.

Rhodes said this year’s season has started unusually early with cases popping up around the state as early as Oct. 20.

“Usually the rule of thumb is flu season starts around Nov. 1 and lasts until the end of March,” she said.

She said the best way to be prepared is by getting a flu shot.

“We make it a priority to get all hospital staff vaccinated,” Rhodes said. “But we tell our staff that if they become ill, to stay home and drink lots of fluids rather than come into work.”

Cindy Reeh, immunization nurse with the Marion County Health Department, said staying home is a new recommendation for those sick with the flu.

“Used to be it was take some medicine and go to work if you can, but now doctors are recommending people stay at home so not to spread sickness to others,” Reeh said.

People with the flu are still contagious until they are able to keep their fever down for 24 hours without medicine.

Reeh said apart from getting a flu shot, people should wash their hands extra well.

“It’s the simplest way to prevent viruses from spreading,” she said.

Marion County Health Department is offering four different types of shots this year, including a new shot especially for seniors.

“The shot is a newer high dose for those 65 and over that includes antibodies — infection fighting cells,” Reeh said. “As you hit 65-years-old, the body makes fewer antibodies, so this offers a boost to help better fight off any illness.”

Another relatively new shot that was offered new last flu season features a smaller needle and a more concentrated dose.

“The shot is for people who are not fans of shots,” she said.

The normal flu shot and the flu mist are also available through the Marion County Health Department. For more information on the flu and available vaccines, call (620) 382-2550.

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