Flu season is in full swing, director of infection prevention still encourages the flu vaccine

Hannah Swayze • Jan 21, 2018 at 5:46 PM

In the past month Tri-Cities residents have traded Christmas decorations for boxes of tissues and stuffy noses. Flu season is all around us.

So far at Mountain States Health Alliance, six deaths have been reported from flu this season. Since October, the hospital system has seen over 1,250 documented flu cases in its hospitals and emergency departments. The number does not include urgent care or primary physicians' offices.

According to Jamie Swift, Mountain States corporate director of infection prevention, said this season is definitely a more severe season.

"We've seen higher numbers, high rates of cases, higher cases of hospitalizations and more deaths than we typically see," Swift said.

So, what can we do? What do you need to know about the flu this year?

Swift answered a few questions on influenza, how to identify it, and if you do catch it, what happens next.

Q. How will I know if I have the flu?

A. Usually with the flu we will see a very sudden onset of symptoms so you'll be fine one minute, you know, you'll go to work, go to school, whatever and really become quite ill the next. So, it's a very sudden onset of symptoms. We usually see a very high fever with the flu, cough, sore throat, runny nose the aches. The body aches are pretty severe with flu. If you have the flu you'll know it. It's a very severe illness.

Q. Should I still get the flu vaccine?

A. If they've not been vaccinated, I would encourage everyone to go get vaccinated. What we are seeing here — and across the nation — is those who have had the vaccine, if they get the flu, they actually have a milder illness.

Q. How else can I avoid contracting the flu?

A. Obviously, the flu shot is most important. Washing your hands is right there with the flu shot as one of the most important things you can do. It's how flu is spread so it's really important that you’re washing your hands and cleaning the environment, being aware of what you're touching. Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth, and then obviously just trying to stay home if you are sick.

Q. How long will I be out of work or school?

A. If they have influenza they're probably going to be out for at least four to five days. It can go up to seven to ten days. We see common colds and you'll be better in two to four days and with the flu you're going to be out for a little while.

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