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State categorizes flu as widespread

Joe Coluccio - January 23, 2013

Washington is one of 47 states, along with Georgia, New York and Texas, who have classified their flu activity as “widespread,” according to the Washington State Department of Health.

“Influenza is preventable and should be taken seriously,” said Rhonda Holden, chief nursing officer of Kittitas Valley Community Hospital, in a press release. “We are taking preventative measures in order to protect our patients, visitors, and employees from influenza.”

People who are exhibiting flu-like symptoms are urged to visit their primary health care providers, who can better serve patients.

The “flu is a serious illness that can be fatal, and several Washington residents have died from influenza this season,” Secretary of Health Mary Selecky said in a press release.

“Taking simple steps to prevent the flu can help people avoid this miserable and potentially dangerous illness. We urge people who haven’t been vaccinated to do it now.”

Between Oct. 1, 2012, and Jan. 5, 2013, there have been 3,170 confirmed influenza-related hospitalizations in the United States, with seniors (65 years and over) comprising more than 86 percent of those cases.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), annual vaccination against seasonal influenza is recommended for people at high risk.

This includes seniors, young children, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions such as asthma.

“I’ve noticed that there are a lot of people in class who are sick; they cough and don’t cover their mouths,” Wayo Yzaguirre, a senior accounting and finance major, said. “I’ve got an exam on Tuesday and I’m sick, so it’s hard to deal with both.”

The national influenza outbreak has Ellensburg citizens concerned.

The emergency room at KVCH has had 120 patients come in experiencing flu-like symptoms. The laboratory at KVCH reported 22 cases of influenza in Ellensburg since Dec. 1, 2012.

“We’re a little busier,” said Dr. Jack Horsley, medical director for the Student Health and Counseling Clinic. “We have students coming in making sure they don’t have the flu because they don’t want to miss a week of school.”

The flu can come on quickly, with symptoms which may include coughing, muscle and body aches, sore throat, fever and chills.

In most cases, people who contract the flu recover within two weeks, but further complications, such as pneumonia, can develop as a result of the flu. For some, complications can result in hospitalization or even death.

“The best thing you can do is get immunized every year,” said Amy Diaz, communications director at KVCH. “The best way to protect yourself is hand-washing, and the best way to protect other people is to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and to stay home when you’re sick.”

Flu vaccines are available for all age groups at Safeway, Bi-Mart, Fred Meyer and Rite Aid. Prescriptions from a doctor will be required for children 10 and younger.

“If you have had the symptoms for more than two days, there is not much we can do for you,” Horsley said. “Just stay home and keep up with your fluids, and use Tylenol or Advil to control your fever.”

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