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Lee County sees jump in flu cases

January 9, 2019
By CJ HADDAD ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Flu season, which began back in October, has officially arrived in Southwest Florida with more than 310 cases confirmed during the week of Dec. 23, according to Lee Health.

Those numbers are a jump from the fewer than 90 cases confirmed the week of Dec. 8.

Officials said that as the "season" continues to ramp up, it is important to take preventive steps to keep yourself healthy.

In a press release, Lee Health encouraged community members to:

- Get the flu vaccine, as well as the pneumococcal vaccine (a secondary illness), if you are able.

- Stay home when you are ill-especially do not visit the hospital if you have flu-like symptoms.

Fact Box

Warning signs of potential emergency

While most cases of the flu do not constitute a medical emergency and can be treated via a visit to a primary care doctor, a Lee Health Convenient Care walk-in or urgent care center, the flu can be serious, especially for the very young, those who are older, and those with compromised immune systems. The Centers for Disease Control has the following warning signs list to help recognize a potential flu emergency:

In children

- Fast breathing or trouble breathing

- Bluish skin color

- Not drinking enough fluids

- Not waking up or not interacting

- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held

- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

- Fever with a rash

In adults

- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen

- Sudden dizziness

- Confusion

- Severe or persistent vomiting

- Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

In addition, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:

- Being unable to eat

- Has trouble breathing

- Has no tears when crying

- Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal

Source: CDC

- Avoid bringing children under the age of 12 to hospitals when possible.

- Cover your cough and, if you use a tissue, dispose of it in a waste receptacle.

Those with flu symptoms are advised to visit their primary care doctor, a Lee Health Convenient Care, walk-in or urgent care center. All can diagnose and treat the flu.

"Patients with flu-like symptoms should only go to the hospital if they are experiencing severe respiratory distress, have a compromised immune system or are either very old or very young," said Dr. Ashraf Khan, System Director Epidemiology/Infect Control at Lee Health.

"For children under the age of 2, parents should contact their primary pediatrician. If the infant stops drinking or breathing, they should be taken for evaluation at the emergency department," added Khan.

Despite the spike in cases, this is the typical pattern seen, and is on par with what was seen last year as well, said Khan.

"The peak of flu season is usually in late January and early February," Khan said.

It is not too late to get the flu shot, for those who have not done so yet.

According to the CDC website, vaccines are recommended to contain H1N1, H3N2 and Victoria lineage-all different types of influenza.

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot; the shot is safe for children older than 6 months, and for pregnant women as well.

A new form of vaccine has come in the form of a nasal spray, and has been recommended for healthy, non-pregnant persons ages 2-49.

The CDC recommends older adults to get a pneumonia vaccine, along with the flu vaccine, due to complications pneumonia can cause as a result of the flu.

Lee Health's Mary Beth Saunders, D.O., system medical director, Epidemiology and Infection Prevention, reminds residents of some of the various places we can catch the flu and other germs, including:

- Restrooms buttons, levers, handles, any high-touch area.

- Buttons and handrails ATMs, store checkouts, staircases, elevators, escalators.

- Gym equipment.

- Shopping carts.

- Gas pumps

- Desks-keyboards, phones, mouse, stapler, pens.

- Handshakes

- Kitchen sponges, handles, countertops

- Accessories-purses, jewelry.

To combat these germs, Saunders recommends using hand sanitizer and practicing good hand hygiene.



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