Clinics experiencing rise in patients with flu

cassandra.sturos

Although flu cases statewide have begun to drop, local doctors said they are seeing an increase in patients infected with the illness.

There has been a recent increase in patients with the flu at Marquette General Hospital (MGH) in the past few weeks, said John Wallace, infectious disease physician for MGH.

In fact, so many patients were coming in with the flu that a restriction had to be enforced for visitors coming into the hospital to prevent the illness from spreading, Wallace said.

“We put the flu restriction on when we’re seeing so much influenza to keep visitors from bringing it into the hospital because it’s very contagious and easily spread,” he said. “It can make people who are sick in the hospital already much sicker.”

The number of deaths due to national pneumonia and influenza has been over the epidemic threshold for the sixth week in a row, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

The flu may be causing more adverse effects this year because of the flu shot’s lack of effectiveness, Wallace said.

“Every year we have to guess about the next year’s flu vaccine because it takes awhile based on the strains that are circling around,” he said. “Those strains aren’t always the ones circulating around the next year. Some years are better guesses than others.”

The Health Center on campus has already seen several hundred flu cases this year as well, said Thomas Schacht, specialist in internal medicine and director at the Vielmetti Health Center.

Associate professor of biology Osvaldo Lopez is currently performing an influenza study and feels that the flu is at a high in Marquette.

“It seems to me that this [flu] season is pretty high; it seems that it is elevated more than normal,” he said.

While doing the study on influenza, Lopez has seen an increased number of students with the flu participating recently. About 30 students have come in, Lopez said.

Some symptoms of the flu include fever, headaches, fatigue, a cough or sore throat, runny nose or body aches. While having these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the flu, it could be symptoms of the common cold or other illnesses, said the CDC.

It is very hard to distinguish the flu from other infections based on symptoms alone. A doctor’s visit may be needed to indicate whether it’s the flu or not. There are tests that can determine if ian illness is actually the flu as long as the test is done within the first two or three days of illness. A typical case of the flu generally lasts between five and 10 days, according to the CDC.

The best way for students to prevent getting the flu is with the flu shot, but very few students actually get it and it would be in their best interest to do so, Schacht said.

“Students would be well advised to get immunized; they’re not at a high risk for complications,” he said. “Young people generally fair well, but [the flu] is also a misery that you don’t need to experience.”

If students choose not to get the flu shot then they should do the following, practice good hand washing techniques, try to stay away from crowds and keep their distance from people who have the flu, which is usually infectious within five to seven days of exposure, he added.

He advised students with the flu or symptoms to take cough syrup, stay well hydrated and get extra rest if possible.

“Cough syrups do just as well [as other medicines] with a cup of tea and a nap,” he said, “There are some anti-viral medicines but the [improvements] are small. Prevention still remains the best way to handle the flu.”