Flu epidemic impacts local hospital, schools

Published 12:43 pm Saturday, January 13, 2018

By Oniska Blevins | The Selma Times-Journal

Last week, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a State of Emergency for the influenza outbreak in Alabama.

“The State Health Officer has reported that an outbreak of the influenza virus has occurred in the state of Alabama; and this outbreak poses a high probability of widespread exposure to an infectious agent that poses significant risk of substantial harm to a large number of people in the affected population,” Ivey said in her declaration.

Governor Ivey said the health care facilities are “overwhelmed” with patients and may not be able to treat them all.

Maegan Austin, director of physician relations and industry at Vaughan Regional Medical Center said, contrary to popular belief, going to the emergency room or hospital is the first mistake someone makes when they think they have the flu.

“We encourage all patients to contact their primary care physician first before coming into the emergency room,” Austin said.

Austin also said to avoid visiting with family members and/or friends that may have the flu.

She said staff getting sick as well as an influx of patients has affected Vaughan.

In a statement, The Alabama Department of Health said this is a “major seasonal flu situation.”

“Alabama is experiencing widespread influenza (flu) activity, and hospitals are at or over normal patient capacity due in large part to the number of patients presenting with seasonal influenza-like symptoms.  Emergency departments and outpatient clinics are also seeing very high volumes of patients. At this time, this is not a pandemic flu situation, but a major seasonal flu situation,” the statement continued.

Jaqueline Moultrie, infection preventionist at Vaughan Regional Medical Center said getting the flu vaccine is the patient’s first step to staying healthy during the flu season.

“The importance of the flu vaccine is to prevent the spread of infection as well as prevent the patient from acquiring the flu,” Moultrie said.

There are also several other ways to combat getting the flu during this flu season.

The Alabama Department of Health advises everyone to do the following: get flu vaccine, stay at home if you have a fever, wash your hands, cover your cough and sneeze, clean and disinfect, learn home care.

Symptoms of the flu include: fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue (tiredness), Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, although this is more common in children than adults.

Visit alabamapublichealth.gov/immunization for more information on ways to avoid getting and spreading the flu and do10 Fight the Flu actions, go to http://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/influenza/prevention.html.