By Karen Yekel
HOT SPRINGS -- Are you feeling under the weather? Do you have a fever, cough, shortness of breath? Better get to your health care provider post-haste because you may just have the flu that’s terrorizing the entire country.
As of Jan. 20, 2018, over 12,000 South Dakotans were treated for the virus that’s causing much concern nationwide. Here’s what’s happening locally with this virulent illness.
“We have seen a significant amount of flu in the clinic this year, and through the emergency room as well,” said health care provider Jim Woehl, CNP, from the Fall River Rural Health Clinic. Woehl said he didn’t have exact numbers, but knew that some patients have been admitted with flu symptoms, which include fever above 101 degrees, and development of a cough for no apparent reason.
“These are the hallmark symptoms of flu, and are sometimes accompanied by abdominal pain, or shortness of breath,” Woehl said, and suggested that those with symptoms should go to their local health care provider within 24 hours of onset and get a “rapid flu test.”
For those with a confirmed case of the flu, providers will write a prescription for Tamiflu™.
“Tamiflu does not cure it but it shortens the course, and the sooner you are treated with it, the better you are,” said Woehl.
The Influenza A strain, the most predominant type of flu, has not fared well with the flu shot, touted as the number one preventive measure. “This year the flu shot has not been as effective as we would have liked,” Woehl said, yet still recommended getting one. “It’s not too late to get a flu shot. You build up immunity as you get flu shots every year,” he said, and commented, “We haven’t even hit the spring flu season yet.”
He also reminded, “When getting your flu shot, remember it takes two weeks from immunization before you have the antibodies to protect yourself.” What about those who say they get the flu after receiving the shot? Woehl said it would be strictly coincidental. “It’s a dead virus, it’s not live.”
Woehl recommended that those who have the flu stay at home, isolate themselves, and get lots of fluids and rest. Caregivers should minimize contact as well. “Wash your hands and use hand sanitizers frequently, especially when you’re out and about,” Woehl cautioned. He also said masks can be very effective when they are worn continuously.
Because people don’t always get sick Monday through Friday, Woehl said the clinic located inside Fall River Health Services is open from 9am to 1pm both Saturday and Sunday. “We’ve been doing that for a little over three years,” he said.
At institutions locally, Deb Powell, R.N., reported that, as of press time, more than 55 students school-wide in Hot Springs were absent due to flu.
The State Veterans Home, recently under quarantine for the flu, lifted its quarantine status about three weeks ago. The infection control coordinator could not be reached for specifics.
Woehl said that nobody has died in Fall River County from influenza this year. Statewide, as of January 20, there were 12,238 reported cases of Influenza of all strains, and 12 deaths, all of whom were over 64 years old.
For more information about the flu from the South Dakota Department of Health, go to http://doh.sd.gov/diseases/infectious/flu/Surveillance.aspx. Statistics are updated every Friday afternoon.