The 2014-2015 flu season is well underway. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports about half the country is experiencing high levels of flu activity. Locally, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control reports the flu virus is now widespread throughout the state, with 89 lab confirmed deaths—an 82 percent increase from the previous year. There are several things you can do to protect yourself from this potentially life-threatening virus:
• Get vaccinated—It is not too late to receive a flu vaccine. The CDC recommends everyone six months and older be vaccinated.
• Wash your hands—Wash your hands often with warm water and soap. If warm water and soap are not available, be sure to use an alcohol-based hand rub.
• Be mindful—Avoid sick people; stay home if you are sick. Experts believe the flu is mainly spread by droplets made when people with the flu virus cough, sneeze or talk.
• Seek treatment—If you are diagnosed with the flu and your doctor prescribes antiviral medication, take your medication as prescribed.
Palmetto Health is committed to preventing the spread of the flu and protecting our patients and visitors. The Emergency Department is designed for medical emergencies, and visitors coming to the emergency room for flu-like symptoms often find they are simply dealing with a bad cold or could have been seen sooner by a non-emergency health care provider.
“Most people have only mild symptoms and do not need to seek emergency care,” said William Gerard, M.D., medical director of Palmetto Health Richland Emergency Department.
There also is the possibility of visiting the Emergency Department with a simple cold, then leaving with the flu. There are people in the hospital with the flu that may spread it to you. Evaluate your illness before entering the hospital, and be sure to seek treatment at the appropriate level. If you are exhibiting flu-like symptoms, you are encouraged to visit your primary care physician or a non-emergency health care provider.
Gerard added, “The theme is not so much a redirection but preventing you from getting something you don’t have.”