A virulent strain of flu is making its way through southeastern Illinois, putting area nursing homes on alert.
At Sloan Medical Clinic in Carrier Mills Physician's Assistant Kelly Phelps gave some tips for preventing the spread of the flu.
"Good hand washing is essential," she said.
"If you have a fever, cough or body aches you should stay home from school or work. If a family member has the flu all others in the house should be tested and given a prophylaxis (preventative) dose of anti-viral medication (pills) for ten days. The afflicted family member should see a physician as soon as possible, two days at the most. Most can return to work or school when the fever subsides."
Area nursing homes and assisted care facilities are asking visitors who are showing flu symptoms to defer their visits until they are recovered or to wear masks, gloves and protective clothing while on the premises.
Executive Director Scott Stout of RDK Management — that manages Saline Care Center and Carrier Mills Nursing and Rehabilitation Center — says it is better for visitors with symptoms to visit by phone.
"We have posted signs asking visitors with symptoms to call instead of visiting, but if they feel they have to visit in person we are giving them masks, gloves and protective clothing," he said. "Any employees exhibiting symptoms are asked to stay home."
Most facilities are giving flu shots to their employees and residents.
According to a press release from the state of Illinois, Illinois is one of 24 states that are now reporting higher than normal flu activity this season. The number of flu-related intensive care unit (ICU) hospitalizations so far this year is 368, with 27 flu-related ICU deaths. The majority of hospitalizations and deaths are of people in their 50s and older. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) expects to see an increase in the number of hospitalizations and deaths as more health care providers report cases from previous weeks as well as current cases.
The Center for Disease Control recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting someone against flu viruses. It is critical for those with heightened risks: People 50 or older, pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions and people who care for anyone at high risk.
In addition to getting vaccinated, the Red Cross has some simple steps people can take to help prevent the spread of the flu virus. Parents can also practice these things with their kids to help keep them well:
Cover the nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing, and throw the tissue away after use. If a tissue isn't available, cough or sneeze into the elbow, not the hands.
Page 2 of 2 - Wash hands often, especially after coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand-rub.
Avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Stay home if sick.