In fact, according to Rebbeca Duplechain, infectious disease/employee health/education director at American Legion Hospital, December had the highest percentage of positive flu tests for people who either came in themselves or had their specimens sent in by a doctor since they began giving the tests in 2009 due to the H1N1 virus. Of those tested last month, 19 percent of those came back positive.
While that number may not seem too high to some, it must be noted that Duplechain said that in past years it was rare for the positive percentage to reach double digits. This year in both November (12 percent) and December they have passed double digits. That make this flu season the first time since American Legion began testing that there have been two months which went into double digits.
“We normally test from September through March,” said Duplechain. “In September it was 5 percent. In October it dropped to 2 percent. Then it spiked to the 12 percent in November.
“And we still don’t know what January will bring.”
Duplechain had two bits of advice for people when it comes to avoiding the flu and to those who have the flu.
For those who have been diagnosed with it she stated that they should “stay home and remain there until you have gone symptom free for 24 hours.”
Those symptoms include feeling achy, having a fever, headaches, feeling dizzy and having a sore throat. She also included what she referred to as “GI (gastrointestinal) symptoms” such as diarrhea, stomach pains or vomiting.
Duplechain also strongly suggested that people get a flu shot. She called any suggestions (or myths as the case may be) that the shot itself makes people sick as simply being untrue.
“When your body is building up a resistance they may experience soreness but there is nothing in the shot itself that gets people sick,” she said.
Duplechain made it obvious how contagious the flu is when she discussed the procedure that American Legions’s staff uses when a person is even sent to the hospital with flu-like symptoms.
“When a patient comes in with flu-like symptoms the first thing we do is give them a surgical mask,” she said. “We normally don’t admit flu patients unless they are in need of an IV or are in need of something more serious.”
So while last month was the highest percentage of positive flu tests American Legion Hospital has seen since they began testing, it should be noted that the situation could possibly get worse. Though there have been reports that have stated that there is a stronger strain of flu that has been seen this year it can still be avoided by following one simple bit of advice.
“Just get the shot,” Duplechain repeated. “The vaccine still protects you from catching it.”