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January 3, 2013

Local health officials say flu season off to early, aggressive start

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Local doctors say a case of the holiday sniffles shouldn’t be overlooked in a busier-than-usual flu season.

Hospitals in Clark and Floyd counties reported an increase in the number of positive influenza diagnoses in the last week.

Angie Glotzbach, marketing and public relations specialist at Floyd Memorial Hospital, said 108 flu cases were reported in the emergency room for December and 91 more confirmed cases were logged in their urgent care centers at Highlander Point and Charlestown Road.

“One of our urgent care centers ran out of tests, so I think there will be more cases than that even,” Glotzbach said. “That is early for the flu season and it’s heavy.”

She said with the hospital and urgent care centers combined, Floyd Memorial has confirmed about six cases a day.

At Clark Memorial Hospital, the numbers have been pretty close to Floyd Memorial. Lynne Choate, marketing and public relations specialist, said their urgent care center in Sellersburg has about seven cases a day.

Barry Taylor, a nurse practitioner at Clark Physician Group, said a spike in diagnoses is pretty common this time of year and holiday gatherings may play a part in spreading the disease.

“It probably is precipitated by people getting together in larger groups,” Taylor said. “You’ll have more people who are carrying the flu virus and more who are not inoculated with the flu vaccine, so you’ll see an increase in the cases.”

PREVENTION

Taylor said the number one preventative measure is to get a flu vaccine.

But he said a lot of people shy away from it because of a common misnomer — he said they believe the vaccine could actually give them the flu.

“That’s a common fallacy out there, it’s just not true,” Taylor said. “The only thing that you would ever run into with a flu vaccine, unless you’re allergic to it, is some irritation or redness at the injection site, but that’s about it.”

He said the virus spreads by droplets, whether through the air or by coming into contact with another person.

Dr. Steven Pahner, emergency medicine specialist at Floyd Memorial Hospital, said the no-nonsense approach of regular hand washing and mouth-covering are good measures to take against spreading.

Taylor said keeping an alcohol-based anti-bacterial gel handy can also help with keeping clean hands.

But he also said people who come down with the virus should take advantage of their sick days and stay at home to keep from spreading it at work.

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