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Take steps to prevent spread of flu viruses

January 16, 2013

By Norma Dittman
Darlene Mechtenberg, Murray County Medical Center Infection Control and Employee Health and Wellness Coordinator, has words of advice to offer regarding the current flu season. She stated on Monday that it is very important for everyone to “Wash your hands and wash your hands. If you are sick, stay home and rest - rest and drink plenty of fluids.”

Currently, the Murray County Hospital is closed to visitors with the exception of immediate family members. No children are being allowed to visit at this time.

She encourages patients with clinic appointments to utilize the face masks that are available at the reception desks.

Mechtenberg explained that people who have been exposed to flu viruses may shed the virus for several days before they actually become ill. “There are a lot of positive influenzas out there right now. Some of our providers are giving Tamiflu as a preventative to families who have a member that was diagnosed with Influenza A. Tamiflu is a preventative that people take for about ten days,” Mechtenberg explained.

Influenza A is the predominant flu that is currently circulating. It is expected that it will peak in about two to three weeks. Symptoms of the flu include fever, or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea.

“We began seeing flu already in September. The reason is that flu viruses do not like humidity and they don’t like sunshine. They like dry conditions,” Mechtenberg said. “That’s why it started in the southern states before we got it up here. The southern states were so very dry. This fall, we had variable weather. One day we could be out in capri's and sandals and the next day we were wearing parkas. In the warmer weather, people spend more time outdoors and eat more fruits and vegetables. When school starts someone gets sick and the viruses spread.”

Mechtenberg stated that Murray County Medical Center obtained 90 percent compliance from their staff to get this year’s flu vaccine. “All of our frontline nurses had the flu shot. It is a safety measure for our patients.”

“People who got the flu shot will not get as sick from the viruses as if they hadn’t gotten the shot. Currently, Murray County Medical Center does not have any of the regular flu vaccine available,” Mechtenberg stated. Still available are high dose vaccines for people over the age of 65. Mechtenberg said that Murray County Medical Center will be receiving more intradermal vaccine. This is placed just under the skin and is just as effective as the intramuscular vaccine. She also said that children under the age of six months cannot receive the flu vaccine. Once they are over the age of six months, they can be given a partial dose and then return to the clinic at a later date for the remainder of the dose.

“We want everyone to know that this is not a pandemic flu. Pandemic means that three countries that have touching borders have had significant flu activity. That is not the case this season. Even so, flu viruses are still very serious so do take precautions to prevent it. We are also seeing quite a few patients with sinusitis. Again, I want to reiterate the importance of washing your hands and staying home and resting if you do become ill,” Mechtenberg stressed.

To date, Minnesota has reported 27 deaths (mostly elderly) and 1,000 hospitalizations this flu season.

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