Petersburg Pilot -

Flu season isn't over yet; tips for prevention

 


It’s winding down, but it’s not over yet. “A big upswing” in type B influenza cases has served as a reminder that “the flu never truly goes away,” Public Health Nurse Erin Michael said.

During the week of April 6, there were three type B cases and one type A reported in Petersburg. It drove Michael to send Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tips to the school district for parents.

It’s not just here in Petersburg, the upswing in type B cases has been a national trend, according to the CDC.

Michael said Petersburg’s increase may be due to residents traveling and bringing it back with them. It’s the nature of Alaska, she added, “there’s not a time when there isn’t flu with so much travel.”

“It’s hard to say when and where we might see a peak cause, it’s just always around,” she added. There are even the occasional cases in summer.

But there are ways people can better prevent against getting the flu. The flu vaccine is always a good place to start, Michael said.

The vaccines given out in clinics locally contain four strains. One, H3N2, a type A influenza, had drifted this year, meaning the vaccine may not have been effective against it as there were genetic changes that had “evolved from previously circulating human seasonal flu viruses,” according to the CDC.

The vaccine still protects against the other three strains, including B strains, Michael added, making it worth getting.

Public Health has given out over 250 flu immunizations this season, she noted.

Children, the elderly and pregnant women are most at risk for flu complications.

Other prevention tips include:

Avoid contact with those who are sick

Wash hands often with soap and water, or using an alcohol-based hand rub.

Avoid touching one’s eyes, nose and mouth to keep from contaminating oneself with the virus from hands.

Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with the virus.

If the flu is contracted:

Limit contact with others.

Cover the nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, then throw it away.

Stay home for at least 24 hours after a fever is gone, except to get medical care or other necessities.

Antiviral drugs can treat it but must be given within the first 48 hours of symptoms.

The Alaska Section of Epidemiology reports cases by region. In the Southeast, as of last week, five had been reported thus far in April. There were a total of 15 cases statewide.

This flu season, from October through April, the Southeast region has seen a total of 125 cases with a spike in November and December, when 46 and 41 were reported.

Michael said the season is definitely winding down, but that this latest upswing in type B cases serves as a reminder that the flu is still out there and that if a person is sick, he or she should stay home “so they don’t make everybody else sick.”

 

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