Other Health Care
BY LAUREN HENRY
Those that think they are hearing this sound more than usual are correct.
The flu has hit hard in the U.S., with 41 states experiencing high numbers of cases.
Based on data from the Tennessee Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are characterizing the flu as "widespread" in the state, and are listing it among 24 states with high levels of influenza-like illnesses.
Dr. Kelly Moore, the medical director of the Tennessee Immunization Program, said that it is still too early to draw final conclusions. But right now, he said, this flu season seems similar to the last really bad season in 2003-2004.
In addition, the outbreak has yet to peak, health officials have said.
Locally, Greene County is seeing at least some of the effects of the flu similar to those sweeping many other portions of the Southeast, and the nation as a whole.
Laughlin Memorial Hospital has seen 22 people with flu-like symptoms in the emergency room from Dec. 30 to Jan. 5, and eight of those were positive cases of flu, according to Noah Roark, human resource director at Laughlin.
Four people have been admitted because of severe symptoms, he said.
These numbers do not include those admitted because of complications related to the flu.
Laughlin Memorial Hospital has taken preventive measures against what Roark said is a worse flu season than last year's relatively mild one.
Signs are posted informing all visitors with flu-like symptoms to wear respiratory masks. Also, those with symptoms are requested not to visit the pediatric and obstetrics wings.
Takoma Regional Hospital has seen about four to five cases a day of flu-like symptoms in the emergency room since mid-December, according to Tina Chudina with Takoma community relations.
The emergency room has tested 201 patients. Eighteen tested positive for the flu, and two were admitted specifically for the flu.
These numbers do not include those admitted because of complications from the flu.
The Takoma Medical Associates (TMI) family practice has 10 providers in their prompt care. Those providers have seen a total of 121 patients who were diagnosed with the flu since October, according to Chudina.
Greeneville Urgent Care, a-walk-in clinic owned by Takoma and located on the hospital campus, logged 67 confirmed flu cases from Dec. 1 to Jan. 10, either by the flu test or by physician diagnosis.
Of the 67 confirmed cases, 57 tested positive for Type A flu, and one tested positive for Type B flu. Both types are responsible for the seasonal flu epidemics.
Both Urgent Care and TMA still have flu vaccines available, Chudina said.
Other physician offices in Greeneville have seen more cases than last year.
A Patmos Emergency Clinic spokesperson confirmed more flu cases this year than last year, but no numbers or statistics were available.
A spokesman at the Greene County Health Department on Friday referred inquiries to the Northeast Tennessee Public Health Office in Johnson City.
Dr. David Kirschke, medical director for the state's regional Regional Health Office, said there are no numbers for Greene County as a whole, but he did confirm that this year's strain of flu is more severe than in past years.
The typical flu season begins as early as November, peaks typically in February, and ends as late as March or April, Kirschke said.
Kirschke is expecting more overall flu cases for this year's flu season than last year, but the season has not yet peaked.
He said normally healthy people that experience flu-type symptoms should stay at home and get plenty of rest.
Drinking lots of fluids and using appropriate over-the-counter medications can help alleviate some symptoms, Kirschke said.
Those at high risk, such as those with lung or heart disease or diabetes, or pregnant women, should inform their healthcare provider and receive treatment if needed.
The best way to prevent the flu is simply washing one's hands, Kirschke said.
Also, a healthy diet, exercise and rest help the immune system fight off infection, he stated.
Kirschke as well as other health care providers recommend taking the flu vaccine, and he says that those that have not done so can still be vaccinated.
He said he has seen a good match between the strain the Centers for Disease Control has observed and the strain used in the preventive vaccine.
Information from the Associated Press supplemented this article.