FRANKLIN COUNTY, Pa. - As reports of influenza continue to increase throughout the U.S., local health officials are reporting that 10 percent of visits to the Chambersburg Hospital and Waynesboro Hospital emergency departments are for influenza-like illness at this time.
"We are seeing an increase in visits from patients with influenza-like illness at our facilities," said Director of Epidemiology and Infection Prevention for Summit Health, Ericka L. Kalp, MPH, CIC. "However, our patient volumes remain manageable."
Kalp is encouraging area residents to take precautions to help prevent the spread of the "flu."
According to Kalp, anyone can get the flu - a contagious respiratory illness causing mild to severe illness. However, there are several ways to prevent it.
"The best way to protect yourself from the flu is the flu vaccine," Kalp said. "It's recommended that everyone over 6 months of age receive the flu vaccine. It's especially important for those who are at higher risk of developing severe complications from the flu."
Kalp said that it is not too late to get your flu vaccine. "Most Summit Health physician practices still have flu vaccine available for patients. However, demand is increasing, so call your doctor's office first to make sure it's still available. You can also visit www.flu.gov to find other flu shot locations nearest to you."
On top of getting your flu shot, Kalp also listed other important ways to help prevent the spread of the flu:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand cleaners, especially after you cough or sneeze.
- Make sure you cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then throw the tissue away.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth because germs can spread that way.
- Avoid close contact with sick people. If you get sick with the flu, limit contact with others. This means staying home from work or school to avoid infecting others.
Kalp noted that most people with the flu will have mild illness and won't need medical care or antiviral medicine.
"If you do get the flu you should get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids and stay home," she said. "Make sure you continue to wash your hands well."
For severe illness, Kalp said you should seek emergency care immediately.
"If you get sick and experience any of the following symptoms, go to the emergency room right away.
- 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
- Fever with a rash
- Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with a fever and worse cough
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
Those at a high risk of developing complications from the flu should contact their health care provider to decide whether or not they need to be examined if they have flu symptoms," Kalp said.
Children, seniors, and people with chronic health conditions are at a higher risk of developing severe complications caused by the flu, according to Kalp.
For more information on flu symptoms and prevention, visit www.SummitHealth.org/prevent-flu.