With the ever-changing weather conditions added to the stress of the holidays and a government shutdown, it seems like everyone is walking around with the sniffles this time of year. While some may be attributable to the common cold or allergies, it’s also flu season and the flu is spreading.
From the beginning of the year until Jan. 25, Womack Army Medical Center has seen 116 positive flu test results thus far. Because of the high number of flu cases, it is important for everyone to take steps to prevent spreading and catching the flu.
One of the first steps is taking care of yourself and your Family by limiting your exposure to the illness. When visiting the hospital or clinic, Families should seek childcare for visitors under the age of 12 unless the appointment is for them. This will help decrease their child’s contact with someone who is may be ill.
“We’re encouraging parents and caretakers to take precautionary measures to avoid becoming sick. This may include avoiding bringing children with them to appointments or when visiting someone in the hospital for the remainder of the flu season,” said Maj. (Dr.) Aaron Farmer, chief, Infectious Disease, WAMC. “With many single parents, this may not be possible but is encouraged to limit the child’s exposure and risk of becoming sick themselves.”
Another easy way to help avoid catching the flu is to get vaccinated. The vaccine is still available at all WAMC primary care clinics.
“The best and easiest way to protect yourself is to get your flu vaccine,” said Lt. Col. Julie Lee, chief, Public Health Nursing, WAMC. “It’s not too late to get vaccinated if you haven’t already received the vaccine for this year’s flu season.”
The flu is a respiratory illness that can range from mild to severe symptoms. The flu differs from a cold and usually comes on suddenly, unlike a cold, which escalates gradually. Symptoms of the flu include some or all of the following: fever or feeling feverish, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and/or fatigue. Children with the flu may also experience vomiting and diarrhea.
Farmer advised that anyone feeling the onset of the flu should limit contact with others and administer self-care by remaining hydrated and taking medications such as acetaminophen for fever and muscle aches. Anyone experiencing worsening symptoms, difficulty breathing, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion or severe/persistent vomiting should see a medical provider.
If you’re experiencing flu-like symptoms, Farmer reminds everyone that it is important to practice good etiquette and hygiene to avoid spreading the illness at home, in public and when coming into the hospital or clinic.
“If you are coming in contact with others and experiencing flu-like symptoms, it’s important to wear a mask to avoid putting others at risk,” he said. “You should also practice proper cough etiquette by coughing into your arm or elbow, wash your hands often and use hand sanitizer.”
Not everyone seeing a provider at WAMC with flu-like symptoms will be tested for the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not require testing for all possible flu cases if the provider feels that the symptoms the patient is displaying are compatible with the flu.
“The flu comes every year,” said Farmer. “Anyone regardless of their age or health is susceptible to catching it. Getting your flu vaccine, practicing good hygiene and staying home if you feel sick are the best ways to help keep you, your Family and everyone around you healthy during flu season.”