Keeping vigilant, hoping for spring
See how much you know about the flu! Answer the quiz at the end if this story.

WAYNE & PIKE - While the 2018 flu season has not affected the local area with the severity it has reached in other parts of the country, local health officials remain vigilant, and report the number of flu cases confirmed here is in the hundreds.
There is hope that the flu season will be winding down with the arrival of March and warming temperature.

WAYNE & PIKE - While the 2018 flu season has not affected the local area with the severity it has reached in other parts of the country, local health officials remain vigilant, and report the number of flu cases confirmed here is in the hundreds.
There is hope that the flu season will be winding down with the arrival of March and warming temperature.
Lisa Champeau, Public Relations Manager for Wayne Memorial Health (WMH) System, said that between January 1st and February 8th, there have been 630 flu tests performed and 199 came back positive. (141 for Flu A and 58 for Flu B).
Although this was nearly a third (31.5%), John Romano, MT, WMH Laboratory Services, said that this was about average for this time of year.
No deaths have been reported in Wayne County, due to the influenza epidemic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of the week ending February 10, the flu remained widespread across most of the United States. The Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH)
It should be noted that the statistics cited by the PADOH represent only a fraction of the flu cases occurring statewide at any one time. The PADOH notes that this is because most persons with influenza do not go to the doctor or are not tested or reported. The severity of the illness varies widely from season to season. The Department estimated that five to 20 percent (600,000 to 2,400,000) Pennsylvanians get the flu each year. Of this number, 120 to 2,000 die from complications of influenza.
Although spring is only about a month away, the flu season is not over. Data collected by the PADOH point that flu activity has decreased slightly from past weeks, but it is too early to tell if the peak of the outbreak has been reached. As of February 10, the flu was still widespread in Pennsylvania, and the death rate has reached 107, including two children.
From October 1, 2017 through February 10, 2018, the PADOH has counted 61,587 reported and confirmed flu cases statewide.  
In Wayne County there have been 453 cases (299 Influenza A and 154 Influenza B).
In Pike County there have been 84 cases (57 Influenza A and 27 Influenza B).

Flu shot poll

So how much are we prepared to get through this flu season? How many have had a flu shot? Far from scientific, a poll posted on The News Eagle Facebook page generated 50 responses. The results were almost even: 54% had the flu shot and 46% have not had it.
“I have been getting the flu shot every since I had my heart transplant eight years ago and never got sick because of it!,” Sonja Tompkins told The News Eagle.

Hoping for March

Kay Daley, Infection Control Nurse at WMH, have an overview of the local situation offered advice for people to do what they can to stay well. Daley began her duties as Infection Control Nurse here in 1997.
“We are seeing a slight increase in the number of people coming in and the lab confirmed. Generally we try to ’treat and street.’ We have had several people come in and be hospitalized with influenza and other complications with the flu,” she said.
January and February tend to be the most active months for the flu. Based on past seasons, cases tend to drop off in March, she said. “Last year was an exception to the rule,” Daley said. “It was almost like the flu last year got off to a late start. We saw it in March. Hopefully this year it will be fall back in the category we are used to seeing.”
The CDC and PADOH will issue recommendations on whether to extend the flu season, based on the number of people coming in with flu-like symptoms.
The 2018 season is comparable to last year locally, but is one of the worst seasons they have seen nationally.

How it spreads

The influenza vaccine targets certain flues. Most people get their flu shots in the fall. Generally the health community observes a “genetic drift” as the flu goes from person to person. The virus picks up a small bit of genetic identity as it spreads, and causes the vaccine it be not quite as effective in the later part of the season as it was early on.
“That is why even if you get the flu shot, you can still come down with the flu or get it a second time,” she said. “And that happens every single year.”
The flu shot has been offered in so many places, which has made it more easily available, including pharmacies or your health care provider. At Wayne Memorial, they have a voluntary program; they recommend their staff to have the shot. If they decline, they must wear a mask in clinical areas. Last year they had about 90% acceptance and in the mid eighties this year.
Daley said it is “highly unlikely” to catch the flu from taking the shot.
Flu is spread by droplets. One can become infected and not notice any symptoms at first.
“Basically we just tell people when they’re sick, just stay home, don’t go out to a public place… Stay hydrated. Most people lose their appetites but hydration is very, very important.”
If you get the flu, call your health care provider, Daley said.

Getting the shot

Tamiflu is an antiviral medicine for treatment of flu. Daley reminded that Tamiflu, however, is not an antibiotic.  “You doctor will decide if [Tamiflu] is right for that patient,” she said.
No one can say that any flu shot will be 100% effective, she stated, but studies from the CDC have proven that if you get the vaccine, the chance you will get only a lesser, less severe form of the flu is likely. “The shot may mean the difference between you being ‘treated and streeted’ or go home, versus coming into the hospital because you’re so sick,” she said.
CDC does not recommend nasal injection of vaccine, so the only other method is a needle.
“It’s almost like a little pin prick,” she said. “We take the patient, ask them what they had for dinner, ask about their grandchildren, and they don’t even know they had the shot. They’re done.”
She said it all depends on the technique of the person giving it, but getting the shot does not result in any “intense pain.” She said it “very quick.”

Common sense

Flu shots are not the whole story. They must be coupled with common sense behaviors.
“Hand hygiene is very important and people overlook that because it’s right in front of you,” Daley said. Keeping clean is the most effective way to avoid the flu other than getting the vaccine, she said. Wash thoroughly, between the fingers and thumb and all over your hands. Soap is important. In a public place use a paper towel to turn on the faucet and to turn it off.
Keep your hands moistened in cold weather to prevent cracking skin, which provides another door for virus to enter. Hand cream is recommended.
“We talk about cough etiquette. Cover your mouth when you sneeze or when you cough. If you don’t have a tissue, use your sleeve,” she said. Discard a used tissue immediately and use some hand hygiene.
If you do cough into your hands, avoid rubbing your eyes or touching your nose, or the virus could enter the body that way.
Think about surfaces you touch, such as elevator buttons, door handles, railings, telephones and keyboards.
Home disinfectants, properly used, help keep areas sanitized.
People at greater risk to coming down with the flu include pregnant women, people with a chronic lung illness, patients taking immune drugs and other health conditions. Children and elderly are more prone to the flu.
People at less risk include those who are healthy, eat a well balanced diet and get the sleep they need.

Schools, nursing homes

School districts and senior care facilities have to take extra precautions. Daley said one nursing home she visits in the area, have “cough etiquette stations” and flu vaccine is offered to both residents and staff.
Any enclosed area were people stay are more susceptible to having the flu spread.
Keith Gunuskey, Assistant Superintendent at Wallenpaupack Area School District, said that they have had only a “handful” of confirmed flu cases this year, which is about the same as in recent years.
At Wallenpapack, their custodial staff is trained in maintaining proper sanitation, regularly cleaning desks, table tops, white boards and door knobs, for example. Multiple green hand sanitizing dispensers have been mounted in high traffic areas throughout their various schools.
Practicing good hygiene has become a regular part of society, as more an more people come conscious of proper habits to follow. “It’s just something we do now,” Gunsukey said.
At Wayne Memorial Hospital, if a person wants to visit a patient but have been sick in the past week, the Hospital encourages them to telephone their loved ones rather than visiting. New Beginnings, their nursery department, has restrictions concerning children. Explaining that they are trying to keep their newborn safe as well as others, Daley said they get cooperation from families. ‘We never had a real issue.”
A couple years ago, Wayne County had a more serious outbreak, and a local school was closed for two days. That year, Wayne Memorial did restrict certain visitors.

For more information:


Have you received a flu shot this season?
Responses: 50
YES 54%
NO 46%

Flu Symptoms

Influenza, also known as the flu, is a contagious disease that is caused by the
influenza virus. It attacks the respiratory tract: nose, throat and lungs.
Influenza is different from a cold.   
Influenza usually comes on suddenly and may include these symptoms:
·         Fever
·         Headache
·         Tiredness (can be extreme)
·         Dry cough
·         Sore throat
·         Nasal congestion
·         Body aches
These symptoms are usually referred to as "flu-like symptoms."

[VIDEO: Courtesy]