Baker health care workers and students are being hit hard by the latest strain of influenza, according to local health officials.
“There is a lot of it (influenza),” Evelyn Neary, the clinic manager and business manager for the Fallon Medical Complex, said. “It is pretty serious because we are missing employees. They have had it or their children. The health care facility workers have to be out for seven days,” she explained. “That was the medical staff’s decision. If someone that works here is positive for influenza, they need to be out for seven days.”
The staff at the medical complex still is short-handed with several people out with influenza, she added.
“It is quite a difficult strain this year because it is presenting in different ways,” she said. “We have had people who are positive for Influenza A, people who are positive for Influenza B and a few cases where they had both.”
In the community, the people who are sick or who have family members that are sick need to be careful to not pass it to others, she explained. “If they are sick or their children are sick, they need to stay home and keep their children at home.”
“We are still seeing a lot of ill people.”
Influenza A reportedly infects more children and young adults than older age groups and has a variety of symptoms, including fever, headaches, body aches, cough, fatigue and vomiting.
“If people need to be seen, then we will try to get them seen,” Neary explained.
The latest strain of influenza has hit local school age children hard, according to Kim Cuppy, the director of public health in Baker.
“It is kind of busy over here,” she said Tuesday.
“Our biggest impact are in the schools. At this time, most of our cases have been school age kids. We’ve had a lot of kids out of school, particularly in the grade schools.”
In Baker, the public health department has seen both strains of Influenza, she added.
“There is a higher rate of B, but we have had both. Most kids have been out of school for four to seven days with it.”
The number of people hit by Influenza in the local community is much higher than last year, she explained.
“We have seen a lot of kids with pretty high fevers, however, that is not always 100 percent of the time. We have had some kids presenting with pretty low fevers - like 99 degrees - and testing positive,” she said.
“Some of the symptoms for Influenza are fever, cough, sore throat, a stuffy or runny nose. We have had some presenting with nausea and vomiting along with it,” she said. In addition, in some cases, fatigue can be a problem.
In some cases, there can be a dizziness or loss of equilibrium, she added.
The current strains of Influenza can hit a variety of age groups hard, she said. “Definitely, the very young, and the elderly, but also anyone with an underlying health condition can be compromised.”
Although she admitted getting a flu shot would not hurt, the community may have seen the worst of the current flu season. “If you do get a shot, it does take a couple of weeks to reach full effectiveness. So, it is kind of hit or miss at this point, but we definitely have flu shots available. It wouldn’t hurt at this point.”
Parents or adults can arrange for flu shots by contacting the public health department. “We definitely have plenty left and I do think the pharmacy (Baker Drug) in town here is giving them too. I would encourage people to call.”
According to Cuppy, the best time for people to get the vaccine is in the fall. “We are now at the tail end of a good time to get it. Sometimes, we see it (flu season) go into April, but usually, by the end of April, we don’t have any more cases.”
“Washing hands is the number one thing you can do other than getting the flu shot to prevent the spread of the infection,” she said.
Among the suggestions for parents is to keep the children at home for at least 24 hours after the fever has broken without using medication. “A lot of people send them back to school after they are fever free, but they still are contagious for a good 24 hours after the fevers. Make sure you are keeping the kids home during that time.”
Masks may not help that much at home, she said. “You are already contagious before you have symptoms, so they have spread it already. I would say to wear a mask at home if you have anyone in the household who is more susceptible to being sicker with the flu - the elderly, senior citizen population.”
In addition, she strongly suggested using good hand hygiene, hand sanitizers and using disinfectant to helps sanitize infected surfaces, she added