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Flu symptoms striking hard

By Staff | Jan 2, 2015

In keeping with national statistics, Jefferson County and adjoining areas are seeing an increase in the number of influenza and influenza-like cases.

According to the Center for Disease Control’s FluView, “flu activity continued to increase in the United States and is high in about half of the country with national influenza-like-illness (ILI) now approaching the peak level seen during the 2012-2013 season.”

Regional breakdowns show that West Virginia, that falls in the CDC’s Region 3, has seen moderate activity compared to other regions around the nation. Also in Region 3 are Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia. While West Virginia is shown as reporting a moderate percentage of influenza cases, Virginia and Maryland both fall into the severe category.

According to FluView, the following is a summary of the key flu indicators for the week ending Dec. 20:

The proportion of people seeing their health care provider for influenza-like illness (ILI) increased to 5.5% and is above the national baseline (2%) for the fifth consecutive week. The length of a flu season can vary. All 10 U.S. regions reported ILI activity at or above region-specific baseline levels.

Puerto Rico and 22 states experienced high ILI activity, an increase from thirteen states during the previous week. Six states (Colorado, Michigan, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia) experienced moderate ILI activity. New York City and eight states experienced low ILI activity. Fourteen states experienced minimal ILI activity. The District of Columbia did not have sufficient data to calculate an activity level. ILI activity data indicate the amount of flu-like illness that is occurring in each state.

Widespread influenza activity was reported by 36 states. Guam, Puerto Rico and 10 states reported regional geographic influenza activity. The U.S. Virgin Islands, The District of Columbia and two states (Alaska and Oregon) reported local activity. Two states (Hawaii and California) reported sporadic influenza activity. Geographic spread data show how many areas within a state or territory are seeing flu activity.

2,643 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations have been reported thru the Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Network (FluSurv-NET) since October 1, 2014. This translates to a cumulative overall rate of 9.7 hospitalizations per 100,000 population.

All of these statistics translate into a somewhat more descriptive measure when actual individuals report on their symptoms. Many in the area have been under siege from flu symptoms including A 100oF or higher fever or feeling feverish, a cough and/or sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, headaches and/or body aches, chills, fatigue and some nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.

Symptoms appear and last for extended periods of time, according to those experiencing illness.

Karen Seagraves-Mason, an adult student at Shepherd University, shared that she got sic before finals but had to “tough it out” to get through them.

“Two rounds of antibiotics completed and a course of steroids in progress and I’m still fighting it,” she shared. “And now my son was diagnosed with the flu Saturday.”

The sharing of sickness is common.

Vanessa McGuigan, of Bakerton, explained that her family of five has all passed it around. Mary Harder, of Ranson concurred.

“That nasty crud came bouncing through our house like a ping pong ball, infecting everyone it touched” she said. “About every third day a different family member was attacked. It has most definitely overstayed its welcome,” Harder said.

Becky Sullivan, also of Bakerton, explained that she has been battling symptoms since Thanksgiving.

“I have never gotten completely over it,” she said, sharing that a relapse at Christmas has gotten her down once again.

“Antibiotics don’t seem to help,” she said.

Lauren Crowther, paralegal with the Jefferson County Prosecutor’s office, has been fighting symptoms, saying it has been “awful, just awful.” She shared that her doctor’s office was running 60-80 flu tests per day when she visited last week.

Several individuals requiring medication have reported a shortage of Tamiflu, one drug prescribed to help alleviate symptoms. And while the CDC continues to promote getting a flu vaccine, many individuals interviewed for this story had received the vaccine but are suffering regardless.

Raine Sheldon, of Leesburg, Virginia shared that her entire family has been hit with the flu.

“We all had shots that didn’t work,” she said. “Now Lysol is our best friend.”

The disease is highly contagious as has been seen by entire families contracting the illness. In addition, children in schools have passed the sickness around as well. Just prior to the Christmas holiday, Judge Gina Groh explained that St. Joseph’s School in Martinsburg where her children attend, closed down for two days because so many students were out sick.

Kelly McDonald, a teacher in Bel Air, Maryland, shared that at Saint Margaret School, “our 7th grade classes had 16 kids absent, leaving eight kids in school. It’s been horrible,” she continued.

As students head back to school next week, the exchange of germs and increase in flu symptoms is likely. Precautions should be followed including using Lysol or other disinfectant. Hand washing is essential as is covering mouths when sneezing or coughing. Those with symptoms should remain at home and should seek medical attention.