Influenza A has not only spread across the nation, but has infected possibly 100 or more people in Custer County since last Monday, December 8. Public Health Nurse Gail Stoltzfus talked about the outbreak with the Tribune, explaining possible treatment as well as when it might end.
There are currently 12 people diagnosed with the flu, but Stoltzfus stated that not everyone who goes in to see a doctor is diagnosed.
“If you start to feel any flu symptoms,” Stoltzfus said, “see a doctor. The first 48 hours are when we diagnose someone with the flu because then we can give them Tamiflu. Tamiflu will only work during the early stages, and it won’t cure you but it will help shorten the lifespan of the flu inside your body.”
So though there are 12 people diagnosed, Stoltzfus said there are likely more. Last week at Custer County Schools more than 50 students were out sick.
The Custer County Medical Clinic had 40 walk-ins last week, as well.
“A lot of the absences were preventative,” said Superintendent Chris Selle. “But if students have no symptoms for a 24-hour period, they are good to come back to school.”
Selle added that since the outbreak at the school last week, rooms and hallways have been cleaned thoroughly with disinfectant.
Stoltzfus added that people who are sick are contagious up to seven days, but after the fever has broken then individuals can return to work or school.
“The important thing for everyone to remember,” Stoltzfus said, “is if you are sick, you need to stay home.”
Though a bad flu season was expected, the virus has drifted since September. The mutated strain has made the flu shots ineffective, though the shot still works for two other flu strains.
“Though Influenza A is going around and the shot doesn’t protect against this mutation,” Stoltzfus said, “the shot can still protect you from other flus and maybe lessen symptoms.”
The popular wives tale around flu season is that the vaccination gives people the flu. Stoltzfus promised that is not true.
“It’s impossible to get the flu from the flu shot,” she explained, saying, “the flu shot just sends a picture of the virus to your body so that it will recognize it when it does encounter it, and then will know to attack it. That picture is held in everyone’s bodies for a certain amount of time, but not for long in children or the elderly. That is why it is so important to get the shot, to remind your body what it needs to fight against.”
As for how long people need to worry about keeping their distance from sneezing and coughing peers or coworkers, Stoltzfus said no one knows for sure.
The flu season peak hit last year in January, but Stoltzfus stated that it is different each year.
“We started to see an uptick in people with the flu in October, but that doesn’t mean we still won’t see the season’s peak later,” she said.
Though it is important for those with the flu to stay hydrated and get lots of rest, prevention is the key.
“Stay aaway from crowds,” Stoltzfus advised. “Don’t touch your nose, eyes or mouth and wash your hands.”
The clinic’s office manager, Marti Frink, has released a statement saying that the clinic will double-book for children and the elderly who have flu-like symptoms.
“It is important that they are treated,” she said, “since they are the most susceptible.”
– J.E. Ward