HUDSON–Columbia Memorial Hospital reported late last week that it has seen a record number of patients at the Emergency Department with flu-like symptoms. But Dr. Norman Chapin, medical director of Columbia Memorial Hospital said in a release from the hospital, “Visiting the Emergency Room is not always necessary. The best treatment for the flu is often rest and hydration.”
According to Dr. Chapin, if you believe you or someone in your care has symptoms of the flu, the name commonly used for influenza, the best action to take is to contact your doctor’s office.
“Knowing the facts about the flu is critical” Dr. Chapin said in the release. “Getting your flu shot is the best way to avoid it. Number two, is staying away from large, crowded areas, and number three is performing hand washing frequently.”
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention flu advisory report issued last week said that 42 states have widespread influenza activity, an increase from 31 states from the previous week’s report. The CDC said the death rate from flu and pneumonia so far this year was “slightly above the epidemic threshold” and that as of the first week of the year, two children had died from the illness. Seasonal flu outbreaks typically cause thousands of deaths annually, though the number can vary widely year to year. The CDC region that includes New York State reported an “elevated” number of cases higher than the national average in the most recent report.
Based on the high volume of patients Columbia Memorial is seeing, Dr. Chapin described this year’s flu season as “among the very worst.”
Influenza is a viral infection that affects the respiratory system–nose, throat and lungs. A list of flu symptoms at the CDC website, www.cdc.gov, includes fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also experience vomiting and diarrhea.
Dr. Chapin, who praised the staff hospital staff for working extra hours to ensure that the needs of patients are met, recommended that people follow the advice below to stay healthy and reduce the risk of spreading the flu.
1. The best way to avoid the flu: Get the flu shot.
The vaccine helps your body build the defenses it needs to protect you from the flu. It can prevent the flu from taking hold up to 90 % of the time among healthy adults and children.
2. Stay home as much as you can.
Staying away from large crowds greatly minimizes the risk for exposure to the flu. This applies especially to infants and the elderly.
3. Wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly and often.
Proper hand washing guards against and limits the spread of many illnesses. Viruses can live on your hands for up to five minutes and they can live on hard surfaces, like counter tops and telephones, for up to two days. Wash hands for at least 15 seconds.
4. Keep alcohol-based hand sanitizer handy.
Hand sanitizer needs to be at least 60 % alcohol to be effective. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are as good as soap and water to clean your hands. But if your hands are visibly dirty, wash with soap and water.
5. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
Cough into your sleeve if you don’t have a tissue. The droplets that come out when we cough or sneeze can carry the flu virus and land on other people or surfaces.
6. Stay home from work if you are sick.
When you’re not feeling well, the best thing you can do for your own health and the health of your co-workers is to stay home.