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Local health officials bracing for influx of flu patients
While the Centers for Disease Control reports that influenza is now widespread in all but three states — including California — local health officials are bracing for an influx of patients looking to get vaccinated against the highly contagious viral infection.
Betty Jones, director of infection prevention and a registered nurse at Sierra View District Hospital, said the local hospital has not seen an unusual number of flu patients, yet, but said an increase is not unexpected.
“SVDH is prepared for an increase in influenza, as we have educated our staff about influenza, maintained supplies and planned for an increased number of cases,” Jones said in a statement issued Monday. She said the hospital gave most flu shots in late September and early October, prior to the season kicking off, and it is now administering between five or six flu shots per day.
Norma Verduzco, chief operations officer at Family HealthCare Network, said the clinic has also seen an average number of flu patients. The clinic is also prepared to take on additional demand for service, she said.
“We are making sure we have enough flu vaccine in stock and, in terms of access, patients are welcomed all the time,” Verduzco said. “We’re making sure we have providers and staff available to see those patients and we’re placing orders continuously and keeping a daily inventory of our flu vaccine.”
Local pharmacists are singing to a different tune.
Tom Woodman, pharmacist in charge at Target, said that on Friday alone, 10 people got flu shots.
“We’ve really had a big uptick in the last couple of days,” Woodman said, adding that he attributes it to news media coverage of the issue. “There’s no question it’s the press.”
He said the retail store is also expecting an increase and currently has enough vaccines to treat 30 people.
“We have vaccine in stock at this time, but it’s my understanding it’s getting hard to get. We haven’t had that problem yet,” he said. “If it’s available, we get it the next day, but that’s not the issue, the issue is whether my supplier has it.”
On Monday, a CVS pharmacists who did not provide her name said they had also seen a big influx of patients.
“We’ve been doing quite a bit. In the last week, oh my God, we had about 50,” she said.
Still, officials are expectant that with the larger number of people vaccinated, the flu will not be as severe.
“We are hopeful with the large numbers of people who have been vaccinated, influenza will be mild in California. SVDH is prepared to increase our daily staff if the need comes in order to care for additional patients,” Jones said. “We are closely monitoring the CDC website for updates to help us be ready when and if the increase comes.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Influenza symptoms include a fever or feeling feverish, a cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue. Some people may experience nausea, vomiting and diarrhea as well but is much more often seen in children.
Once a person gets the flu, the flu vaccine will not help. There are some anti-viral medications but they only help if they are given within 48 hours of the first symptom. These medications may help reduce some of the symptoms, but will not prevent the flu.
The elderly, infants and people with other illnesses are more likely to die of influenza than others, but rarely do patients die of the flu. Most can be cared for at home if the symptoms are mild.
The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months who is not allergic to eggs or chickens get a flu vaccination. This year, the vaccination is closely aligned with the primary virus and so will help prevent the virus.
Tulare County is providing flu vaccinations at several locations in the county this month, and has enough vaccinations this year for everyone who would like to get one.
For more information or for a flu clinic schedule, call 685-5725.
Information contributed by SVDH