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Flu hits the area

Significant increase in cases reported recently

February 21, 2008
By Connie Cartmell,
It may begin with chills, a low-grade fever, sniffles and a scratchy throat.

Within hours, a headache, sore throat and cough may develop.

On top of it all, there is exhaustion and a feeling that your body has been run over by a truck.

Expect nothing good from then on.

“We have both hit a shade over 103-degree temperature with this and when that happens, we shiver uncontrollably,” said Kimberly Myers, 40, of Newport. “It’s pretty awful.”

Myers and her 11-year-old son both have the flu.

“He started out two weeks ago with a stomach bug, vomiting and all,” Myers said. “Then when we thought he was getting better, this second round hit. The doctor told us it could be another three or four days.”

When she phoned his elementary school to report her son’s absence, the secretary was out sick with the flu, along with a number of students.

“About the only thing you can do is go to bed and drink plenty of fluids,” Myers said with a raspy voice. “The doctor did give my son antibiotics for his throat and ears.”

The “significant bump” in influenza incidence in the past two weeks has led Marietta Memorial Hospital to restrict visitors to family only, according to Jennifer Offenberger, director of marketing and public relations.

The notice to the community was effective Wednesday. It is the first time this year the hospital has limited patient visitation.

“We had been seeing a significant increase in respiratory illness and flu-like symptoms since Christmas, but the last two weeks have seen a peak,” Offenberger said. “There are situations where patients are in serious or critical condition. Limiting visitation until further notice keeps our community, patients and staff as healthy as possible.”

The move is expected to also help reduce the spread of illness in the community, she said.

People can send electronic greetings to patients via the hospital’s Web site,'>

Although the flu has reached widespread status in Ohio and many other states and is making a huge appearance locally. Vickie Kelly, director of nursing at the Marietta City Health Department, said it isn’t too late to get a flu shot.

“It really never hits here until March,” Kelly said. “We still have a lot of time ahead of us.”

The vaccine could lessen symptoms of the flu, she said.

But there is never a guarantee that the vaccine selected will be the strain of influenza floating around. It didn’t happen this year.

“Flu vaccine is a mix, a ‘guesstimate’ of what’s circulating around,” Kelly said. “This vaccine has been less effective than some others.”

Schools are reporting a high number of cases of flu, Kelly said.

“Children are considered at high risk for complications, pretty much as high as elderly people who get the flu,” she said.

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control report says more than 20 children younger than 18 have died during this year’s outbreak. Colorado has reported nine deaths of children and is investigating whether two other deaths were caused by flu. Last year, only two children in Colorado died of flu complications.

Hand washing is considered the very best protection against the flu.

“Also, if you are sick and believe that you may have flu — stay home,” Kelly said.

Carol Thomson, registered nurse at Marietta Middle School, said absenteeism from influenza has not been bad, so far.

“Not yet,” Thomson said. “We have had kids with flu. There are a couple of different things going around now.”

She said immunization officials with the CDC did their best to select the flu strain they thought would hit this winter.

“But, oops, they got the wrong one,” she said.

Students who are sick with flu should stay home, especially if there is any fever with the illness.

“They need to stay home until there is no fever for 24 hours without medication to lower the fever,” Thomson said.

Dr. Kathleen Meckstroth, commissioner of the Washington County Health Department, said influenza is widespread in the region and “occurring later than normal years.”

“We expect it to continue through March, but you can’t predict these things,” she said. “There’s also a lot of stomach virus going around.”

Fact Box

It’s not too late
for a flu shot
¯ Washington County Health Department, 342 Muskingum Drive: 1 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays.
For more information: 374-2782.
¯ Marietta City Health Department, 304 Putnam St.: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays.
For more information: 373-0611, ext. 108.

Steps to avoid influenza
¯ Wash hands frequently and well, especially before eating.
¯ Keep hands away from nose and mouth.
¯ If you cough or sneeze, cough or sneeze into your sleeve instead of your hands.
¯ Avoid crowds.
¯ If you are sick, stay home and avoid contact with others.
¯ If your child is sick and has a fever, keep the child home from school until the fever has been gone 24 hours – without Tylenol or any fever-reducing medication.
Source: Times research.



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