Cases of flu rising locally

Bartholomew County is experiencing an increase in confirmed flu cases.

Since the end of November, a steady rise in flu-like illnesses have been reported weekly through December, said Kelsey DeClue, spokeswoman for Columbus Regional Hospital.

By the end of December, 35 percent of suspected flu-like cases were testing positive for Influenza A or B strains, the two most common types each winter season, she said.

Although clinicians said the number of cases is higher now than in recent years, flu typically emerges in December — and hospital admissions remained below 15 patients as of Tuesday, DeClue said.

But because of similar symptoms apparent in different types of colds and flu that local residents are dealing with, it’s hard to say for sure — short of seeing a doctor and being tested — just what you may personally have, she said.

Cold symptoms are somewhat mild, such as runny or stuffy noses, DeClue said.

What’s ailing you is more likely to be a case of the flu when someone is dealing with feverish chills throughout the body, headaches and other aches, along with extreme fatigue or tiredness, she said.

When a patient is dealing with a high fever that won’t break, as well as an extreme sore throat and tiredness, they should consult a¬†family physician or stop in at an urgent-care facility, DeClue said.

This is especially important if the sufferers are children or elderly residents, who are among the at-risk population, she said.

In addition to cold and flu, it’s been a tough season for upper respiratory issues, DeClue said.

There are many types of over-the-counter options for managing less-serious matters with the help of a pharmacist, she said.

“The majority of what’s going on right now is a virus,” DeClue said, however.

The rise in flu cases isn’t confined to Bartholomew County.

For the week ending Dec. 23, the state experienced a high amount of influenza-like illnesses over a widespread area, according to the Indiana State Department of Health. One week earlier, flu activity was listed as minimal.

There were no school-wide outbreaks reported anywhere in Indiana before the start of the winter break from school, the report stated.

Statewide, nine Indiana residents have died from the flu since Dec. 1 compared to one flu death at this same time a year ago, state health officials reported.

All but one of the nine who have died from flu this year were 50 or older, the report stated.

High-risk individuals include pregnant women, people with an impaired immune system, people with chronic illnesses and young children – especially those too young to get vaccinated, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

Outbreaks were reported at 13 long-term care facilities in the state, the Department of Health said on Dec. 23.

That same day, an employee of Parkside Court, an assisted living facility on Columbus’ north side, estimated as many as 33 residents were reporting symptoms normally associated with the stomach flu.

Known medically as gastroenteritis, the stomach flu is something entirely different from Influenza A or B strains, state health epidemiologist Jill Stauffer said.

Gastroenteritis can be caused by a number of viruses, resulting in problems such as diarrhea and vomiting.

While test results to confirm what type of disease broke out at Parkside Court were still not available Wednesday, no additional complications at the facility have been reported, Stauffer said.

No visitor restrictions have been imposed at Columbus Regional Hospital, but the hospital is suggesting that people who are sick or have been sick within 48 hours to refrain from visiting patient areas, DeClue said.

Flu symptoms, prevention

Common signs and symptoms of the flu include:

  • fever of 100 degrees or greater
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • cough
  • muscle aches
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose

Hoosiers are reminded that it’s important to remember to wash hands thoroughly after coughing or sneezing, avoid contact with people who are sick and always cough or sneeze into one’s elbow or upper arm.

Source: Indiana State Department of Health

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.