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Health Department warns about flu

By Staff | Jan 25, 2013

In what appears to be shaping up to be the worst flu season in 10 years, the Jefferson County Health Department offers some answers to flu questions.

When explaining what “the flu” is, a recent press release indicated: Influenza is a viral illness that is spread by respiratory droplets released when infected persons cough or sneeze. People who contract the flu develop fever, chills, cough, headache and fatigue. It is not common for people who have the flu to have nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. These symptoms are much more commonly seen in patients with other viruses. The illness caused by the flu typically last between 10 and 14 days. People can become very ill and occasionally pneumonia and even meningitis can be seen.

The release went on to say that treatment of influenza is very limited. Antibiotics do not treat the flu. Only a very few medications can treat viral infections and of the medicines that treat viruses, only a very few treat influenza. The most commonly used, Tamiflu, works best if given within 48 hours of onset of symptoms. It minimizes symptoms and can shorten the duration of illness caused by the flu, but one’s body will get rid of the virus on its own after approximately two weeks.

The best thing is to prevent contracting the flu. Good hand washing and respiratory hygiene will help as will getting the flu shot. While the flu shot is not 100 percent effective, it does help to minimize one’s chances of catching the flu. Also, the flu shot doesn’t make one catch the flu. The symptoms an individual may experience after getting the flu shot, such as a headache, fever and muscle aches are all common reactions to vaccines and do not mean that one has the flu. The flu vaccine is a dead vaccine, meaning the virus used to immunize people has been killed by chemicals or heat and the virus cannot replicate in the body causing illness.

While some people can become very ill from the flu, health department officials say that most people do well with lots of rest, plenty of fluids and treatment of symptoms with cold medicine.

Dr. Robert Jones, who recently spoke at a meeting of the Jefferson County Department of Homeland Security, did confirm that there is at least one strain of flu for which the current vaccine is not effective. He did encourage individuals to get the vaccine that is available. The Health Department, he said, does still have some of the vaccine available; however, there are limited supplies in pharmacies.

Michelle Goldman, director of the Jefferson County Free Clinic, indicated that her clinic has the vaccine which is available to those who need it. There is no financial stipulation on those who wish to receive the vaccine at the Free Clinic, Goldman said. They should simply call first to make sure that a nurse is available to administer the dosage. The number of the free clinic is 304-724-6091. Goldman said that both adult and children doses are available at no cost.

Those with additional questions about the flu should contact their healthcare provider or call the Jefferson County Health Department at 304-728-8416.