Coughing, sneezing, aches and fever. The flu bug has hit Anoka-Hennepin schools just as hard as it’s hit schools throughout the state of Minnesota.
Good news is, it’s not any worse here than it is anywhere else.
“Anoka-Hennepin staff and students are seeing widespread influenza similar to the rest of our community,” said District 11’s health services coordinator Cindy Hiltz.But no school events have been canceled due to illness, she said.
Once an ill student’s temperature returns to normal or goes down to less than 100 degrees for 24 hours and they feel well enough to go back to school, he or she can return to a regular school day, Hiltz said.
According to Gloria O’Connell, public relations manager for Allina Health, which include Mercy and Unity hospitals, the numbers of patients hospitalized with the flu are hard to come by “because they change all the time.”
“All of our hospitals and clinics have been seeing lots of patients with flu and flu-like symptoms,” O’Connell said.
The Minnesota Department of Health reports that “there is no evidence of a new influenza virus circulating and state health officials stressed that the profile of the disease outbreak is very much in keeping with other very severe seasonal influenza years.”
Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Edward Ehlinger offered some perspective.
“We are clearly at a high level of influenza activities in the state, but it’s important to keep this year in perspective. What is occurring has happened before,” Ehlinger said. “This is what influenza looks like, this is what it can do. That’s why we stress every year the importance of prevention measures.”
According to O’Connell, as of Jan. 14 there have been no flu-related deaths in the area served by Mercy and Unity hospitals.
While children and the middle-aged are certainly among those getting sick with the flu, O’Connell said it seems to be hitting the elderly the hardest.
Across the state, 21 of the 27 deaths have been elderly, O’Connell said.
As far as preventing the flu, the best advice from infectious disease specialists and the Minnesota Department of Health is to try to prevent the flu by frequent hand washing, avoid touching your face and eyes, get a flu shot and stay home if you’re sick.
(For more precautions to take against the flu, see sidebar.)
To serve patients in the safest and quickest way possible, O’Connell urges people with flu-like symptoms to stay home and make an e-Visit by going online to MyChart (www.allinahealth.org/click).
“To reduce the number of people in the Allina Health clinics, we are encouraging people to use MyChart,” O’Connell said. “Adults with flu-like symptoms can schedule e-Visits in MyChart instead of going to the clinic or urgent care.”
The department of health urges community members to take care this flu season, and always.
“It is important for all Minnesota residents to do what they can to protect themselves from influenza and limit the spread of the disease. If you haven’t been vaccinated, get vaccinated. It’s not too late,” a press release distributed by the Minnesota Department of Health last week stated.
Symptoms of the flu
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the symptoms of the flu, which tend to come on suddenly, can include a sore throat, coughing, fever, headache, muscle aches and fatigue.
Those who become severely ill with influenza-like symptoms or those who are at risk for severe disease with influenza, should contact their healthcare provider immediately.
People who are otherwise healthy but get the flu can avoid the clinic by scheduling an e-Visit on MyChart by visiting www.allinahealth.org/click.
Influenza is caused by a virus and antibiotics are not effective against it, although antivirals (such as oseltamivir and zanamivir) are effective, especially if given shortly after the development of the symptoms.
Precautions to take against the flu
In addition to getting a flu shot, the Minnesota Department of Health recommends taking the following steps to avoid spreading or catching the flu:
• Do your best to stay healthy; get plenty of rest, physical activity and healthy eating.
• Stay home if you have a respiratory infection. Stay away from people who are sick or exhibit any flu-like symptoms.
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue whenever you cough or sneeze, and then throw the tissue in the garbage. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your sleeve.
• Clean surfaces you frequently touch, such as doorknobs, water faucets, refrigerator handles, telephones, keyboards and mobile devices.
• Wash our hands often and be sure to use soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
Sue Austreng is at [email protected]