Sick And Tired: Region Seeing Severe Flu Season
Influenza cases have been widespread and severe throughout Luzerne and Lackawanna counties and numbers have been increasing over the last week, according to Geisinger and Commonwealth Health officials.
Dr. Alison Brodginski, an infectious disease specialist at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Twp., said since Monday, there have been 55 confirmed flu cases in Luzerne County at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center, Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre and urgent care centers.
Geisinger officials have been seeing similar numbers in Lackawanna County, she said, mirroring statewide and national trends.
The numbers of flu cases are higher than last year and previous years, Brodginski said.
“We are noticing this surge in both laboratory-confirmed and hospital cases,” she said. “It wasn’t a slow trend. Over the past week, there was a really huge surge in numbers.”
Todd Burda, assistant chief nursing officer at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, said there were 40 to 50 flu cases in the emergency department last week and the week before.
“It’s the highest volume we’ve seen in a number of years in the emergency department,” Burda said.
Other Commonwealth Health hospitals, including Moses Taylor Hospital and Regional Hospital of Scranton, have seen an increase in the number of flu cases, he said.
Two strains of the flu, A and B, have shown an increase locally since December at Commonwealth Health hospitals, said Commonwealth Health spokeswoman Renita Fennick.
Some patients at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital have tested positive for two or more viruses, she said.
At Moses Taylor Hospital, 77 tested positive for Flu A and 15 tested positive for Flu B from Feb. 1 through Feb. 7, she said.
Regional Hospital of Scranton had 24 outpatient positive flu tests and one inpatient positive flu test from Jan. 31 to Feb. 7. Nine hospitalized patients recently tested positive for the flu, she said.
According to the state health department, there have been 1,297 confirmed cases of the flu throughout Luzerne County since October; 646 in Lackawanna County; 487 in Schuylkill County, 59 in Wyoming County and 47,752 statewide.
The contagious disease caused by the influenza virus attacks the respiratory tract, nose, throat and lungs and has been leading to workplace absences.
For health care employees who care for people with the flu, their exposure to the contagious disease is high, Burda said.
Commonwealth Health employees are encouraged to get a flu shot, but are not mandated, he said. When employees get sick, they are asked to stay home for five days, he said.
The flu is different than a cold. With the flu, Brodginski said there is a more sudden and acute onset of symptoms, which include severe fatigue, body aches, fever, chills, sore throat, cough and nasal congestion.
Sometimes, diarrhea and vomiting is reported with the flu but that is more common in children than adults, she said.
If anyone has flu symptoms, Brodginski said they can be tested at their doctor’s office, hospital or urgent care clinic. Testing is done with a swab placed into someone’s nostril.
The antiviral medication Tamiflu is used to treat symptoms caused by the flu and works best if it is taken 24 to 48 hours after symptoms develop, she said.
Brodginski stressed that getting a flu shot is the best thing people can do to protect themselves from getting the flu.
While preliminary results from Australia showed the flu shot was only about 10 percent effective against the H3N2 virus, this year’s dominant strain, she said preliminary results in this U.S. showed it is about 33 percent effective.
Geisinger employees also are asked to get flu shots and more than 90 percent do, she said. If people get flu shots and still get the flu, it is less severe, she said.
In addition to getting vaccinated, Brodginski said others way to help prevent getting the flu is to cover your mouth when you cough and wash your hands frequently to help stop the spread of germs. She also recommends if you are sick, stay home.
According to Burda, flu symptoms could last one to two weeks but severe symptoms should subside in two to three days if people take care of themselves.
“You need to limit your contact with people and not share personal space,” Burda said. “Most people should stay home and take every precaution not to spread it.”
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