Winter viruses coming

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Natchez &8212; Flu is not rampant in the Natchez area, health-care providers said this week, but early January is about the time the seasonal bugs begin to appear.

Infection control nurses at Natchez Regional Medical Center and Natchez Community Hospital reported a few cases of flu in the emergency rooms but none severe enough to require admittance.

Disa Taunton, infection control nurse at Community, said other areas of the country already are in the throes of flu season.

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&8220;Activity is widespread in California, New Mexico and Arizona,&8221; she said.

It is not uncommon for Mississippi to lag behind the West and the East Coast.

&8220;Flu usually comes from the Northeast down or from the West,&8221; Taunton said.

The best defense against flu is the flu shot, which many Miss-Lou residents had in the fall.

There are other ways to guard against the illness, however.

&8220;The best way to prevent flu and the spread of flu is to wash your hands frequently and to use alcohol-based hand gel to disinfect your hands,&8221; Taunton said.

Kim McDaniel, infection control nurse at Natchez Regional, agreed. Hand washing is the single most important measure.

&8220;We encourage hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, which means using a tissue to cover your mouth or nose when you cough or sneeze,&8221; McDaniel said.

She also has placed signs in the admitting room and ER waiting room informing patients that they may be asked to wear masks if they have flu symptoms.

By definition from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses.

The Center reports up to 20 percent of the population may have flu each year, and about 36,000 people, on average, die from flu each year.

Several viruses are around this season, Taunton said. And some people are more vulnerable to the illnesses than others.

&8220;Most people, if their immune systems are good, can recover from the flu without complications,&8221; she said. &8220;The elderly and children are the ones who end up with complications.&8221;

Both nurses said anyone with elevated temperature associated with flu-like symptoms should stay home from work. Children with fever should be kept home from school, also.

&8220;The flu virus is easily spread,&8221; Taunton said. &8220;And the flu bug can last for a long time on surfaces.&8221;

Pharmacist Frank Ernst of Ernst Pharmacy in Natchez said the drug Tamiflu is effective in treating the symptoms, and he expects no shortage of the drug.

Flu season is busy for druggists, he said. &8220;Flu season is winter season, and you already have all the coughs and colds.&8221;

For treating symptoms, such as coughs and congestion, some of the same over-the-counter drugs used for colds also work for flu.

&8220;For relieving symptoms, if it worked on the common cold symptom, you can try it on the flu symptom,&8221; Ernst said.