Flu hits the Carson Valley
It could be a fever, headache, extreme fatigue or body aches that first appear and before long, the flu circulating the world, has hit home.
Federal officials said Thursday the flu has hit hard in 24 states, nearly doubling the number since last week and including almost the entire Western half of the country.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the flu has hit all 50 states at least sporadically, and the season has not yet peaked nationally. The flu season can range from November through March and even past March in some years, according to the CDC.
An early and intense outbreak in some Western states has swamped many hospitals with sick children and dried up vaccine supplies. Locally, the Barton HealthCare System, has nearly used its 6,000 vaccines and will run out shortly.
Karen Conant, public relations coordinator for Barton, said the predominant strain circulating now is the H3N2 Strain, the Fujian Strain. The H3N2 Panama Strain is a close match to the Fujian and is in the flu vaccine as well as the Hong Kong Strain and the New Caledonia Strain.
“We’ve done almost double the (number of) community dates for flu shots than last year,” she said. “There is more of a demand.”
Doris Dimmitt, infection control specialist for Carson-Tahoe Hospital, said originally the CDC thought the strain had mutated and the vaccine being distributed was only partially protective. However, the CDC is now saying they may have missed the right strain completely. Carson-Tahoe Hospital originally got 12,000 doses of the vaccine and by Thursday, was down to 20 doses left.
“We are seeing those who have been vaccinated aren’t anywhere as sick as those who didn’t get vaccinated,” Dimmitt said.
This flu season seems to be worse for children, and the CDC said it plans to closely watch flu complications among them. Flu and its complications are the sixth leading cause of death nationally among children age 4 and younger, according to the CDC. At least 11 children have died in the outbreak, and some experts predict this year’s death toll easily could surpass the annual average of 36,000 deaths.
Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School in Gardnerville estimates 15 percent of its student body has been hit by the flu this month. It doesn’t seem to be as bad as last year, a school secretary said, and added that attendance was improving by Thursday.
School Nurse Sandy Wartgow of Douglas High School said there hasn’t been a high percentage of students infected, but she is seeing more stomach flu rather than the respiratory illness being warned about by the CDC.
“And it’s not the 24-hour bug,” she said. “It is lasting three, four days, and gets pretty severe.”
To ensure those at-risk are vaccinated, the CDC issued a health advisory Thursday that recommend health care providers do not reserve second doses for children aged 6 to 23 months.
“Usually, they get a dose and then a month later, another dose,” said Conant. “This is a big change.”
The best prevention, according to experts, is good hygiene.
“Keep in mind that the handle to the grocery cart, the door knob is potentially contaminated,” Dimmitt said. “This flu is spread by contact. You touch it and rub your eyes or mouth. Keep your hands away from your face. I recommend the instant hand sanitizing gel.”
Conant said she has been getting telephone calls from residents who are getting scared during this flu season.
“Getting vaccinated is a personal choice,” she said. “If somebody is not able to get the vaccine, I don’t know how to convey to them not to panic.
“The best thing to stop the spread of infection is good hygiene.”
Both women agree that if a person is symptomatic with a fever, they should stay home and away from co-workers and the public.
“If people come to work sick, there will be a lot more people sick,” Dimmitt said.
The CDC is trying to redistribute what’s left of the 83 million flu shots made, and may buy fewer than 500,000 additional doses from a British maker.
Last week, only Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming were listed as having widespread activity by the CDC. But on Thursday, the CDC added Arizona, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island and West Virginia to the list of states with widespread flu activity, meaning outbreaks of influenza or increases in influenza-like illnesses and lab-confirmed influenza samples in at least half the state.
– Regina Purcell can be reached at email@example.com or (775) 782-5121, ext. 211.
* Emphasis should be placed on targeting trivalent inactivated vaccine to persons at high risk for complications from influenza: healthy children aged 6Ð23 months, adults aged 65 years, pregnant women in their second or third trimester during influenza season, and persons aged 2 years with underlying chronic conditions.
* Persons at high risk should be encouraged to search locally for vaccine if their usual health-care provider no longer has vaccine available.
* All children at high risk, including those aged 6Ð23 months, who report for vaccination should be vaccinated with a first or second dose, depending on vaccination status. Doses should not be held in reserve to ensure that two doses will be available.
* Next priority should be given to vaccinating those persons at greatest risk for transmission of disease to persons at high risk, including household contacts and health-care workers.
* Healthy persons aged 5Ð49 years should be encouraged to be vaccinated with intranasally administered live, attenuated influenza vaccine.
* Decisions about vaccinating healthy persons, including adults aged 50Ð64 years, with inactivated influenza vaccine should be made on a case-by-case basis, depending on local disease activity, vaccine coverage, feasibility, and supply.
* Health departments should work with their health-care providers to reallocate influenza vaccine to health-care providers in need when possible.