Flu season arrives in Highlands
Marc Valero | Highlands TodaySEBRING - The flu season arrived early and is sizing up to be the worst in 10 years in the U.S., while local officials have reported an increase of flu cases since the holidays.
Published: January 11, 2013
Published: January 11, 2013
The mayor of Boston declared a state of emergency for his city Wednesday and a Pennsylvania hospital erected a tent outside its emergency room to handle an influx of patients.
Highlands County had been mostly in the clear, according to flu activity reports, but that seems to have been a temporary respite from influenza hitting the Heartland.
"We've seen an increase in patients coming into our E.R. with symptoms that are flu-like," said Cathy Albritton, director of marketing at Florida Hospital Heartland Division.
Generally patients are not admitted to the hospital for the flu so it is recommended for people to see their primary care physician, she said.
There is still time to get a flu shot, which is effective against the type of flu that the hospital is seeing, Albritton said. The biggest preventative measure other than the flu shot is hand washing.
State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong stated in a press release Thursday, "Influenza A is the most common flu type in Florida this season and is countered by the vaccine."
Sebring Walgreens pharmacist Michelle Barcenas said there has been a significant increase in the number of people coming in for flu shots lately.
"It kind of tapered off around the holidays, but all of a sudden there has been a huge influx this week," she said.
Barcenas recommends coming between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. for the vaccination, though they are open 24-hours and someone could get a shot in the middle of the night.
Rueben and Gayle Iverson of Sebring stopped by the Sebring Walgreens Thursday afternoon to get their flu shots.
"If he gets sick, I am not taking care of him," Gayle joked.
But joking aside she added, "It's time to get serious about this."
Rueben said he hasn't had a flu shot in at least five years.
Gayle said, "We've lucked out and I think we've played our luck long enough."
Sebring CVS pharmacist Al Hamden said they have been giving more flu shots recently, about 15 a day. He recommends stopping in from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the vaccination.
Highlands County Health Department Nursing Director Barbara Moore said they are seeing an increase in patients with flu and flu-like symptoms, and from what she has heard, it seems like it's becoming widespread in the county.
Flu activity is considered widespread in the state, but Highlands County is classified as "mild," she said, but, "I am hearing a lot of people talk about the flu and of course nationwide it's pretty severe and they are predicting more cases as we get deeper into flu season."
So far the Health Department has seen five cases of the flu since December, which is not a lot, but more people are probably going to their doctor or the hospital, Moore noted.
The flu season usually peaks in Florida in mid-January to February.
The Florida Department of Health continues to recommend flu vaccines, Moore said. "If you haven't had a flu shot yet you should get one."
Those in a "high risk" category should definitely be vaccinated, she advised, people over 65, children under 5, pregnant women and people with underlying illness such as heart or lung disease or diabetes.
Flu shots are available at the Health Department's Sebring and Lake Placid clinics, check: www.healthyhighlands.com for more information.
It takes about 10 days to two-weeks for the shot's antibodies to take full effect, Moore said. If you get the flu five days after getting vaccinated you will have some antibody activity so you will have a milder case.
What if you become sick?
Those experiencing flu symptoms, such as a fever, muscle aches, cough or sore throat, should seek treatment quickly because a physician can prescribe an antiviral medicine that can reduce the severity of the illness, she said.
If you get the flu, the other recommendation is to stay home and don't try to be a hero and go to work and spread it, Moore said. Cover your mouth when you sneeze and wash your hands frequently.
The illness usually lasts a week to 10 days, she said, with children recovering a little faster, but they should also be vaccinated.
The Florida Department of Health recommends getting vaccinated every year because as the flu types change, the vaccine changes.
The cost of a flu shot, around $25 to $30, is covered by many health insurance plans and Medicare Part B.
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