By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor

The Harrison-Clarksburg Health Department shared a Health Advisory distributed by Dr. Rahul Gupta, Commissioner and State Health Officer of the West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources’ Bureau for Public Health.

That advisory states that influenza activity is high in the U.S. and that the Mountain State has reported 36 outbreaks since January 2017.  Dr. Gupta urged healthcare providers to continue to encourage flu vaccinations as long as the viruses are circulating to help reduce the likelihood of hospitalization.

Margaret Howe-White, Nurse Director at Harrison-Clarksburg Health Department, noted that reported cases of flu have been high in school populations and are also prevalent in long-term care facilities.

“There has been a mix of both Influenza A and B, but Influenza A seems to be the most predominant, she said.  “Symptoms include a fever of more than 100 degrees, severe body aches and chills, stuffy nose, cough, headache, along with some occasional vomiting and diarrhea.  It is best to check with a doctor to ensure that it is the flu.  A physician may prescribe an antiviral medication which can help if it is given at the onset (first couple of days) of symptoms.  Otherwise, those affected just basically need to treat the symptoms, take ibuprofen and be sure to stay hydrated.  A virus is not treated with antibiotics.”

With a cold, she added, complaints may be of a runny nose, cough and general malaise, but with the flu, the other symptoms are much more pronounced.

Although getting a flu shot is not a 100% guarantee that you won’t contract the flu, having the vaccine will decrease its severity and duration.

“Peak flu season is typically in February and March, and we are now right within that curve, so it is important to be careful and there are some tips to follow to try to prevent getting the flu,” Howe-White stated.  “Of course, we recommend avoiding close contact with people who are sick, wash your hands thoroughly and often, cover your mouth when coughing, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth … these are always good health habits, but extremely important during flu season.”

If you or your children are sick, stay home!  If you or your child has had the flu, stay home from work or school for 24 hours after the fever has subsided.  And particularly, stay away from infants and the elderly who may be even more susceptible to germs and may be at higher risk.

The weather, too, may be a factor.   Howe-White mentioned that when the weather is cold, people are more apt to stay indoors.  But, since our area has had some days of beautiful weather and warmer-than-normal temperatures lately, people tend to be more social and get out among others; therefore, they may be vulnerable to germs that others may be harboring.

Dr. Gupta concluded, “Flu season can continue into the month of April, so it is still not too late to get a flu vaccine because we have seen more cases of influenza this year than last year.  However, while West Virginia was among the 44 states reporting widespread flu activity, the Center for Disease Control shows that the flu was not as high here in comparison to rates in surrounding states.”

Flu season will not begin its decline for another month, so health officials are still urging caution and simple everyday preventive actions like frequently washing your hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer.  Remember that you don’t have to shake hands to pick up germs; they also live on door knobs, telephones and computer keyboards – things you touch every day without thinking!!!