Prevention is key in fighting flu

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Posted: Sunday, January 26, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 11:23 am, Tue Mar 25, 2014.

Coughs and sniffles are common for January, but doctors and medical personnel are cautioning prospective patients to be wary of a high fever, body aches and a persistent cough.

Physicians and other medical practitioners in Ralston and La Vista said they are seeing a typical flu season, encouraging those with symptoms to get tested quickly and take basic preventative practices to decrease further spread.

“We’ve had quite a few positive flu swaps,” said Amanda Smith, nurse practitioner with Midwest Minor Medical at 84th and Q streets. “In the first part of January, I would see three, four, probably five cases of flu a day.”

However, she said she believes it has start to taper down, showing a typical flu season across the board for all ages. The one trend spotted in the number of positive test results is the lack of a flu shot.

For those who haven’t gotten the vaccine, Smith said to just “do it.”

“I’m all for preventing illness,” she said.

She said the flu shot will not only help with the flu, but it also reduces the risk of getting pneumonia or dealing with sinus drainage, typical secondary infections that can come with the flu.

Another group urged to get the flu shot are those who are in a high-target population. This group includes those who live in nursing homes, people older than 65, pregnant women and a people diagnosed with a variety of medical conditions including diabetes or anything that can suppress the immune system.

Dr. Steph Erickson with the Alegent Creighton Prime Care Clinic in La Vista said it is important for both those in this target population, as well as their caretakers, to get the shot.

As for La Vista, she said it has also been a typical flu season.

“We probably see one to two confirmed cases daily,” Erickson said, adding the clinic receives 12 to 15 phone calls a day in regards to flu-like symptoms.

While many people confuse typical seasonal symptoms such as a runny nose for the flu, she said the three most recognized symptoms are a sudden onset of a high temperature, an aching body and a persistent, painful cough.

For those who have these symptoms, Erickson said it is important to see your doctor or visit a clinic within the first two days to treat the influenza.

Otherwise, she said, the sickness will have to run its course. Typically, the flu is a three-day illness but the cough can remain.

“A cough can last anywhere from three to six weeks,” she said.

Once someone gets past the aches and fever, Erickson said, the patient is cleared to return to work or school. Still, she urged people to be mindful of possible secondary infections, which are likely to follow the flu.

Erickson said generally most healthy individuals can treat flu symptoms with ibuprofen or acetaminophen, rest and plenty of fluids. She said after the flu has run its course, someone who had the flu should still get the flu shot.

“It is never too late to get your flu shot,” she said.

Further preventative measures don’t take much more than common sense, Smith said, such as washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes, avoiding facial touching or sharing drinks. Additionally, she said to keep a distance of more than three feet from those with known symptoms, as the flu is spread through droplets and contact.

“Prevention is key,” she said.

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