Even though the headlines and newscasts aren’t abuzz with dire warnings about an especially nasty virus, influenza remains a threat.
"We have seen a number of cases in our Emergency Room," said Kelley Newsom, R.N. and infection-control coordinator at Central Kansas Medical Center. "Some have had to be hospitalized.
"We want to minimize these ER visits and hospitalizations," Newsom continued. "A few simple guidelines provide a common-sense approach to preventing the spread of the flu virus."
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and dispose of it properly;
• If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow;
• Wash your hands with soap and water, or use an alcohol gel frequently; and
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
If someone does become infected and visits CKMC’s ER with flu-like symptoms, the physician there reviews test results that may indicate hospitalization is warranted.
"When that is the case," Newsom said, "the ER physician calls the patient’s family doctor or whomever is on call for that particular medical practice. Then, that family physician makes the decision on whether or not to admit the patient."
Gloria Siefkes, R.N. and CKMC’s employee health and education nurse, noted that getting the flu vaccine is still the best way to prevent the contagious disease.
"When you have been vaccinated, your chances of getting the flu are substantially reduced," Siefkes said. "And if you can escape the disease, you won’t pass it along to others."
Last year, CKMC noticed a 10 to 15 percent increase in the number of people receiving flu shots. But this year it is back to normal levels.
"The H1N1 scare in 2009 resulted in more vaccinations," Siefkes said. "Now we are hoping people don’t become complacent about getting the flu shot. It is extremely important every year."
A couple of myths about influenza cause some people to shy away from getting a shot.
One myth is the flu is just a cold. In fact, the flu is much more serious than the common cold, the registered nurses said. Each year, 226,000 Americans are hospitalized and 36,000 die from influenza and its complications, which include pneumonia.
A second myth is that the flu shot will cause the flu. It can’t because the vaccine is made from a dead virus.