Lots of Grady Countians are battling or have had the flu this season
As the flu season continues to unfold, health officials say Grady County is experiencing wide spread activity with some doctors seeing an uptick in diagnoses in recent weeks. The hospital is instituting special visitor limitations in response, schools are monitoring absences and the health department is offering free flu vaccines to people with an inability to pay.
Meanwhile, Dr. Mark Hudson of Quail Ridge Family Practice in Cairo predicts the peak of flu season here is still on the horizon. Dr. Hudson said he tested 11 patients on Tuesday for flu and eight were positive. “We’ve seen a significant increase starting about two weeks ago,” he said. “I’m seeing anywhere from five to 15 people calling per day the past couple of weeks in particular who wanted to be seen in regards to the flu.”
Dr. Ashley Register with Cairo Medical Care says he is also seeing patients test positive for the flu. “We are seeing a fair amount, but not like in January, which was busy. Still, we saw some testing positive today,” Register said Tuesday.
Grady General Hospital has tested 978 people during this flu season, which began last fall, and 207 have been positive for flu, according to hospital spokeswoman Megan Powell.
Going on the defense is the best way to avoid getting sick with the flu, and Grady County Health Department officials say getting a flu shot is still a positive first step. Even those with financial issues can get a flu shot at the Health Department this year thanks to a free supply now available to those underinsured or uninsured. Peggy Connell, nurse manager of the Grady County Health Department, said appointments are unnecessary for the shots there, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Staying away from those who are ill is another protective step, and Grady General Hospital is promoting that tactic for visitors. To safeguard both their patients and guests, the hospital is establishing certain restrictions, according to Crystal Wells, GGH administrator.
“We are encouraging visitors who are not feeling well or have fever to avoid visiting patients at this time. Masks are available to those who choose to visit the hospital. At this time, we’re also limiting visitation to people who are over the age of 12,” Wells said.
Some locals with the flu have found themselves needing hospitalization. “We have active flu cases in the hospital now,” said Dr. Hudson.
Dr. Register said, “when you get mean strains like we’ve had this year, when it hits you bad, it’s quick.”
Grady County schools are seeing their share of cases affecting both students and staff, according to Superintendent Dr. Kermit Gilliard. “The school system and our local Health Department have been monitoring the number of absences at the schools,” Gilliard said. “Shiver and Southside had an increase (in absences) last week.”
The schools are following suggestions from health officials to help prevent the spread of the virus. “Schools encourage students to wash their hands, and we have had to remind custodians to check the restroom more frequently to replenish the supplies; soap and paper towels,” Gilliard said.
Both Drs. Hudson and Register said they are cautious about testing patients and prescribing antiviral drugs. Supplies of both tests and medicine could be challenged by overuse, and side affects of the drugs are a consideration. “It makes you feel bad being on it. It’s not a perfect drug at all, but it’s the only thing we have. At least it’s better than nothing,” said Dr. Register.
“Kids under 2 and people over 65 with other comorbid conditions need Tamiflu a lot more than the average Joe walking around, because they’ll (average Joe) probably get over the flu with or without Tamiflu,” said Dr. Hudson.
Even when temperatures warm outside and Spring gets underway, we could still be dealing with flu, Hudson contends. “I don’t think we’ve seen the peak of this. I think we’ll see a return sometime in March or April, like it was in 1999,” he said.
The Centers for Disease Control offers additional recommendations for flu prevention: Cover the mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing; avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth; clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces when someone is ill; get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.