Health officials report flu increase

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 13, 2010

Hospital officials are reporting an increase in positive flu cases throughout the county, and while it’s unknown just how many of these cases are H1N1, health officials are reminding residents flu season is far from over.

At Andalusia Regional Hospital, positive flu cases are averaging about one per day, said Candie Northey ARH’s director of infection.

“We can’t confirm whether these are H1N1 or typical seasonal flu because the tests we utilize are simple ‘quick tests’ and only reveal positive or negative flu,” Northey said. “We have noted five positive tests through our lab in the last five days, and while this is not a lot, I do feel the need to refresh everyone on how to prevent the spread of flu.”

The same can be said at Opp’s Mizell Memorial Hospital, where Marsha Seppala, MMH’s director of case management and infection prevention, said the first of the year started out relatively slow for positive flu cases.

“We were almost hopeful things were going to pass us by, but we weren’t so lucky,” Seppala said. “In February, we had seven positive cases that came through the lab and since the start of March, we’ve had four.”

Seppala said Opp’s cases are “type A flu,” in which “99 percent of the cases are H1N1.”

“The thing about type A flu is that it doesn’t seem to follow a ‘season’ per se,” she said.

“That’s why we are still discouraging any un-necessary trips to the hospital – for anyone – but especially for those with small children or who are pregnant.

“If you are to come into contact with (the flu virus), it’s very contagious,” she said. “In general what we tell people is if you don’t need to be around anyone who is sneezing or coughing, don’t. But if you do, stay at least eight feet away.

“Always keep your hands clean,” she said. “Alcohol wash works, but soap and water is best. If you have to go into a room with someone who has H1N1, wear a mask.”

Seppala also reminded residents to be mindful of their surroundings when shopping.

“You don’t think about when you go to the grocery store about touching the things that people have been touching,” she said.

“A simple rule is to keep your hands below your chin. Don’t touch your nose, mouth or any part of the face. If you do, you open yourself up to infection.”