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Published on January 07, 2015

Avera Specialist Advises Preventive Measures Against the Flu

SIOUX FALLS (Jan 7, 2015) – In the midst of widespread influenza activity, an Avera specialist advises people to use preventive measures to prevent its spread, and to get a flu vaccine if they have not already.

“We’re seeing far more flu cases in the clinics and hospital,” said Jeremy Storm, DO, Infectious Disease specialist on staff at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center. “It’s clear that this is one of the worst years we’ve had for influenza.”

To date, the South Dakota Department of Health is reporting 281 lab-confirmed cases of the flu, 121 flu-related hospitalizations and three flu-related deaths. Dr. Storm said the numbers may actually be higher as many people cope with flu symptoms at home, and these cases go unreported.

If you or a family member have not yet gotten a flu vaccine, it’s not too late. According to Dr. Storm, influenza numbers generally peak in mid-February. The number of flu cases is expected to increase as the year progresses.

“It’s ramping up,” Dr. Storm said. “We are entering the height of flu season, so for anyone who has not gotten vaccinated, it is still a good idea.” The vaccine takes about two weeks to become effective.

The flu vaccine is formulated each year to protect against the most common strains, and it is usually made up of two or three types of influenza A and one or two strains of influenza B. However, this year, the subtype H3N2 of influenza A mutated slightly from the antigens in the current vaccine, resulting in more flu cases.

Yet the current vaccine still protects against other common strains and lessens the severity of the flu for people who still catch the flu after getting vaccinated. “The vaccine is still effective against most strains, and we still recommend that people get it,” Dr. Storm said.

Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu shot, and children under 2 years old, or children with health problems like asthma, diabetes or chronic conditions of the brain are at the highest risk of severe complications. It is important to remember that influenza should not be taken lightly as it can result in serious complications such as pneumonia, dehydration or worsening of chronic health conditions.

“People often say ‘it’s just the flu,’ but in health care we’re talking about influenza. It can look like a lot of different things, but generally makes people sicker,” Dr. Storm said.

Symptoms include cough, high fever, fatigue, body aches and occasionally upset stomach, vomiting and loose stool. Rest and hydration are two of the best ways to recover from a bout of the flu, but it’s important to talk to your health care provider.

“Just call your provider’s office for recommendations if you or a family member get sick,” Dr. Storm said. If your case is diagnosed as influenza, the medication Tamiflu might be prescribed to decrease the severity of symptoms and speed recovery.

Get medical attention immediately in case of any of these warning signs:

  • High or prolonged fever
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest

Additionally, do your part to prevent the spread of influenza. Cover a cough with a tissue or your elbow and wash your hands regularly. Most importantly, stay home from work or school when you feel sick, and know that you might be contagious for seven to 10 days.

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