In recent weeks, confirmed cases of the flu have been on the rise according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 25 states reporting widespread flu, including Georgia.
Charles Moore, M.D. and director for Wellstar Medical Group Urgent Care in Acworth, said the facility has seen an increase in patients suffering from flu-like symptoms, but it doesn’t appear the confirmed cases of flu are on the rise in 2014.
“We had a big increase over the past three weeks. It seems to be slowing down a bit compared to a peak of about two weeks ago,” Moore said.
Flu season can start in the early fall and can last through April, Moore said.
“It’s very unusual to have a significant flu season real early in the year, even last year when it was in November, that was earlier than usual,” he said. “You usually have a number of weeks where the greatest number of cases come in.
“Last year we had two peaks, one was very early and the other was in mid- to late January. This year we don’t know, but we did have a three-week peak and it’s kind of tapering off now.”
He said while a drop in temperature often is associated with feeling ill, the weather itself has nothing to do with people contracting the flu virus.
“It has nothing truly to do with the drop in temperature. When it is cold we tend to spend more time inside and thus we can spread it more,” Moore said. “People that are outside and run down from the elements, they could possibly more suspectable, ... but it’s still a virus and it is spread via respiratory means, respiratory droplets or vapor droplets when you cough or sneeze.”
Over-the-counter medications, such as pain relievers and decongestants, can help with flu symptoms, Moore said, but do not offer a long-term fix.
“Any of the truly symptomatic treatments — treating the achiness, treating the congestion, treating the fever — the [over-the-counter products] ... basically help treat the symptoms and that is beneficial, but it does not do anything towards doing away with the actual flu virus,” Moore said.
Heather Clement, a registered nurse and emergency department nurse manager for Cartersville Medical Center, said there hasn’t been a particular demographic of patients suffering from the flu at CMC and the hospital has seen an approximate 50 percent increase in flu patients over the past few months.
While many medical experts encourage the public to receive the flu vaccine, Clement said the hospital does not monitor whether patients being treated for the flu previously had received the vaccine.
She said one can take simple measures to help prevent contracting the virus and, in the case one does contract the virus, help prevent it from spreading.
“Definitely wash your hands very well and if you’ve got somebody in the home with flu-like symptoms, be sure to wash all the dishes you use in extremely hot water, using the dish washer preferably, to try and kill the germs,” Clement said, adding it’s important to remain at home when suffering from the flu to avoid spreading the virus to others. “Especially if you’ve got a cough, wear a mask to help keep that from spreading to anyone else.”
If stuck with the virus, Clement said one of the most important aspects of treatment is to continually consume liquids.
“... If you’re running a fever you can get dehydrated very easily and drinking liquids will be the best way to prevent winding up in the emergency room to get IV fluids for dehydration,” Clement said.
For updates on the virus, visit the CDC’s website, www.cdc.gov.