Welcome to the world of sniffling, sneezing and wheezing, as DeSoto County has joined much of the United States in suffering the past few weeks with influenza, more commonly called the flu.
In the United States, just 12 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands have avoided being labeled as having a widespread outbreak of influenza, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s most recent report.
The states labeled as having widespread reports of the flu include Mississippi and its adjacent states, with the exception of Tennessee.
The Volunteer State is said to have regional incidences of the flu, but not the widespread variety the other Mid-South states, including Mississippi, are reporting to the CDC.
Ann Kirby, R.N. is the Infection Prevention Manager at Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto in Southaven. Kirby said more people have come to the facility’s emergency room as outpatients complaining of flu-like symptoms.
“What we’re looking at is the percentage of people that come in with influenza-like illness,” Kirby said. “Normally around this time we’re at one percent. Right now, we are seeing around 7-8 percent. We usually don’t see numbers like that this time of year, since our peak for those kind of numbers is in January into February.”
Anyone with a fever of 100 degrees or more, a cough and/or sore throat is considered to have flu-like symptoms, according to the hospital’s definitions.
The predominate strain of flu is a type of Influenza A called H3 N2, which was covered in this year’s supply of the flu vaccine, Kirby said. This particular strain has caused problems in spite of being covered by the flu shot because the particular virus has changed more quickly than other past strains of the flu.
Kirby said people should take particular precautions to avoid catching and spreading the virus, with the number one method remaining the flu shot, followed by hand washing and sanitizing.
“If they haven’t gotten their vaccine, then don’t wait,” said Kirby. “The peak flu season traditionally doesn’t occur until January to February, so we remain on the upward trend that we’re on. It’s very concerning to think of what we might see during that time.”
Baptist-DeSoto has already taken special precautions to minimize the flu threat in the hospital.
“During flu season, we put masks and hand sanitizers at entrances all throughout the facility,” Kirby said. “We make sure that our health care workers are vaccinated and we make sure that patients that do come in with flu-like symptoms are isolated and we put special precautions up.”
Kirby also cautioned anyone who comes down with the flu should stay at home and remain there until they are fever free for at least 24 hours.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.