BY MELANIE BUCK –
The flu has officially arrived in Polk County. Although some may have experienced the flu, or flu-like symptoms in recent months, 2017 has seen an explosion in its first few weeks. Mena Regional Health System Public Relations Specialist Sonya Maye, has reported 103 patients have tested positive for the flu since January 2, 2017, when the first positive flu case came into Mena Medical Associates. The hospital saw its first positive flu case of the year on February 5.
Teresa Wise, Chief Nursing Officer at MRHS, said peak flu season is typically from October 1st – March 31st, but the virus got a late start this season. “Not only locally, but statewide, we are experiencing a more widespread flu epidemic. This year is a later outbreak than in previous years. We are currently seeing a significant number of patients that are testing positive for the flu.
Wise explained that not only is flu in peak season, strep throat is also spreading rapidly. “Many of these patients are also testing positive for streptococcal sore throat (strep throat). It is highly recommended that everyone receive the flu vaccine. Even though there are many strains of the flu, the vaccine can minimize the symptoms and provide a faster recovery time. In addition to getting the flu vaccine, there are several healthy practices to help prevent the flu and the spread of the virus.”
The Arkansas Department of Health reported widespread flu activity in their Week 6 report for 2017 with 62 counties reporting flu cases in their area. Since October 2, 2016, ADH said more than 4,300 cases have tested positive, with 19 influenza-related deaths in the state. Among flu antigen tests that can distinguish between Influenza A and B virus types, 90 percent were Influenza A, and 10 percent were Influenza B.
Wise said some tips to avoid the flu and the spread of the virus are: Avoid close contact with those who are coughing or sneezing; Stay home when you are sick; Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing; Clean your hands often; Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; Practice overall good health habits.