Americans are being hospitalized at record rates as one of the worst influenza seasons in a decade moves further into 2018.
The Center of Disease Control reports that, since the flu season began, approximately 60 per 100,000 people have been hospitalized for flu- related illnesses. In response to this brutal flu outbreak, hospitals have been flooded, schools have closed and the death toll rises by the day.
During the first week of February, the CDC said that 7.7 percent of all visits to medical services were flu related.
The Arkansas Department of Health collected data that shows, like the rest of the nation, the state has been heavily affected by the flu outbreak. As of Oct. 1 of 2017, Arkansas had over 4,000 confirmed cases of the flu. Of these confirmed cases, 640 have been hospitalized and 140 have resulted in death.
John Brown University student Sarah Barnett had to exercise safety measures when she contracted flu-like symptoms earlier in the spring semester.
“I woke up and wasn’t feeling very well. I thought that it was just lack of sleep until I talked to another friend who was experiencing similar symptoms and said they had the flu. Later that day, it was obvious that I had the flu.”
Barnett didn’t go seek medical attention. She instead made sure to spend time in her dormitory away from others to heal.
“Since I was sick, my [Resident Assistant] went to the store and bought me Dayquil, Nyquil, and oranges. Another girl on my hall gave me Vitamin C drops.”
Barnett said that getting the flu affected her school work. “I was going out of town on an educational trip. I was going to work ahead so I could be caught up on my homework. But, because I got sick, I didn’t get to work ahead like I planned. I’ve had to turn in a lot of assignments late, but my professors have been understanding.” Barnett said it took her a week and a half to catch up from having the flu for five days.
Ally Cooper, an emergency medical technician at Central Emergency Medical Services said, “There’s been a large amount of people who we’ve picked up in the ambulance with flu related issues.”
Cooper said that the illness is also affecting the team at Central EMS, “A lot of people on the [Advanced Life Support] side of the unit have gotten the flu from patients. It only takes a short time being in the truck with someone who has the flu to put you at risk.”
Cooper said that to prevent the spread of the flu, medical technicians spray a special chemical solution in the back of the truck to kill the germs that spread the illness.
There are precautious that the public can take as well to stop the spread of the flu. “People need to wash their damn hands,” Cooper said.
The Arkansas Department of Health said, “The flu can be spread by coughing or sneezing and by touching a hard surface with the virus on it and the touching your nose or mouth.” The Department stressed the importance of washing your hands with anti-bacterial soap to help prevent the spread of the flu.
Cooper said that the way people respond to the flu affects the spread of the virus.
“People often overreact when they show flu symptoms and rush to the [Emergency Room.] The problem with this response is that for normal, healthy people, the flu isn’t life threatening,” Cooper said.
Cooper also said, “These people are exposing the flu virus to patients who may have lowered immune systems as well as increasing the wait time for people who desperately need ER services.”
“People should only go to the ER with the flu if they are having trouble breathing or have a fever close to 103 degrees; Otherwise, they should wait to schedule an appointment with their general physician,” Cooper said.
Patrick Irish, a certified nursing assistant at Ashton Place Health and Rehabilitation in Fort Smith, Arkansas, works with elderly people who require assisted living. “Our residents have weaker immune systems. This is mainly because they have thinner skin which makes them more susceptible to germs. Our facility has to prepare for flu season because, for our residents, the flu could be deadly,” Irish said.
Irish also said, “Some people say that vaccination doesn’t help, but they don’t see elderly people who go unvaccinated die of the flu. I’ve seen many residents who were healthy die to flu related issues that could’ve been prevented had they been properly vaccinated.”
The staff at Aston Place Health are required to be vaccinated to prevent the spread of the flu. “If an employee is diagnosed with the flu they are immediately sent home for at least a week to prevent the illness from spreading,” and all precautions should be taken by healthy people to avoid contracting and giving the flu to those who are more susceptible, Irish said.
John Brown University is taking extra precaution to keep the influenza virus from spreading on campus.
James Garst, the coordinator of custodial services, helps his three cleaning crews to maximize the cleanliness of the JBU campus.
Garst said, “We use consistent cleaning procedures in all areas to make sure all areas are disinfected and sanitized to a very high standard. We mist all door handles with our disinfectant to cut down on the spread of the flu. Which kills 99.9 of the spreading of germs and well as killing the flu virus.”
Garst said that students can reduce the spread of the flu by washing their hands for 15-20 seconds with anti-bacterial soap and by isolating themselves in their rooms if they do.c contract the flu. by isolating themselves in their rooms if they do contract the flu.