The many communities that CHRISTUS serves are seeing high levels of flu activity.
In New Mexico, Santa Fe’s CHRISTUS St. Vincent Regional Medical Center reports seeing 124 confirmed cases of the flu in the last 30 days and the hospital and emergency department are tremendously busy.
In the past week, CHRISTUS Mother Frances Hospital-Tyler reported 85 flu cases and about 400 cases across all of the CHRISTUS hospitals and clinics in Northeast Texas.
In Louisiana, the flu season is hitting Calcasieu Parish particularly hard. Health professionals report seeing a big increase over the last two weeks. One day they saw six flu cases come through their emergency department doors. Typically they report only seeing on average this time of year being a maximum of two.
“We typically don’t see our peak until January, February,” said Dr. Timothy Haman, CHRISTUS St. Patrick’s Infectious Disease Specialist. He told local NBC television station KPLC, “If we are already at this level now, I can only imagine where we are going to be.”
Across the nation, the season is being called one of the worst flu seasons in recent memory.
“Too soon to tell if it will be the worst in decades, but it will be a rough season,” said Susanna Hernandez, BSN, RN, CIC, Director of Infection Control and Prevention Department at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System. “The predominant A strain we have been experiencing has been associated with more severe illness in the past especially in older individuals and younger children. We are also seeing B strains increasing.”
“We haven’t peaked yet,” said Dr. Gabriela Vazquez, a physician in Southeast Texas.
Vazquez recommends that if someone starts feeling like they have the flu they should come see her at CHRISTUS Family Medicine-Port Arthur or their primary care doctor or an urgent care center.
“There are antiviral drugs that can be used to treat flu illnesses and these are most effective when started within the first 48 hours of symptoms.”
Typical Flu Symptoms:
Fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, chills, headaches, and fatigue (feeling weak or more tired than usual)
Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in young children than adults.
Vazquez explained that despite reports that this year’s vaccine is not as effective, getting vaccinated now can still be beneficial, and vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season, which is important because the vaccine helps to ease the severity and duration of symptoms if you come down with the flu.
The CDC conducts studies each year after flu season to determine how well the flu vaccine protects against flu illness. In general, current flu vaccines tend to work better against influenza B and influenza A(H1N1) viruses and offer lower protection against influenza A(H3N2) viruses. How well the flu vaccine works (or its ability to prevent flu illness) can range widely from season to season. The vaccine’s effectiveness also can vary depending on who is being vaccinated.
Preventing the Flu: The Basics
Get vaccinated – it is still proven to be the most effective way to keep your loved ones and you from getting the flu. CDC recommends it annually. There are always multiple strains circulating during a season and there is a lot of research that goes into predicting the strains. The flu shot cannot cause flu illness, as it does not contain live viruses. Even if it turns out that this year’s vaccine is not the best match to current strains, getting vaccinated can still ease the severity and duration of symptoms if you come down with the flu.
Clean your hands and cover coughs and sneezes – fights the spread of germs.
Recognize the symptoms and avoid close contact– people sick with the flu usually feel sudden onset of some or all of these symptoms:
When to Seek Care
Adults with flu-like symptoms are encouraged to visit their primary care doctor (you can find a CHRISTUS physician here) or an urgent care center. Again, it is important to seek care quickly, as the antiviral drugs used to treat flu illnesses are most effective when started within the first 48 hours of symptoms.
Adults who get sick and show any of the following signs, are recommended to get emergency medical care:
- Hard time breathing or shortness of breath,
- pain or pressure in the chest or stomach,
- sudden dizziness,
- serious or constant vomiting or
- flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough.
If you visit a CHRISTUS hospital
This year because of the many reports of flu, CHRISTUS hospitals are taking some additional steps to protect patients and visitors.
“Expect to see signage alerting you to avoid visiting if you are ill. If you are sick and must be in the hospital you should put on a mask and clean your hands often,” explained Hernandez.
There are masks offered throughout waiting rooms and hospital entryways. The masks are for any visitor who is sick and insists on seeing a patient or for anyone who wants to take some extra precautions.
There are signs advising healthy visitors to clean their hands after arriving and before leaving and other basic hygiene tips.
Notify any healthcare professional you encounter if you need help but you will likely see the “Cover your Cough” stations available near entrances first.
Signs will be posted on patient’s door if you need to take special precautions (like wearing a mask) when visiting someone that is sick with the flu; nursing Associates will help make sure you understand what is required to keep you safe.
What else do we do to protect you from not getting sick?
- CHRISTUS hospitals have an extensive hand-hygiene program to remind health care workers to perform hand hygiene.
- You are encouraged to ask your doctor or nurse if they have washed their hands.
- Hospitalized children with respiratory infections or people who are at high risk are placed on special precautions to prevent the spread of germs.
- Hospital Associates are given the flu vaccine every year.