The battle is far from over when it comes to influenza, according to the Southwest Health Clinic in Bowman.
In fact, the community is only about halfway through the flu season and needs to make sure to take precautions to protect against contracting the virus.
In order to avoid being overrun with cases and to help prevent people from contracting it, the clinic is still using a system to control the number of walk-in patients coming into the healthcare facility.
According to Lisa Knopp, the clinic manager and a registered nurse, the visitor restriction plan the facility has been using will continue through the remainder of the active flu season in the region.
“It will be for the duration of the flu season. We are still seeing several cases a week,” she explained Monday. “We are still continuing to limit the visitors because … with the nursing home, we don’t want anyone bring it in.
“So we will continue to limit the visitors,” she said. Last year, the control was continued into the end of the flu season in April.
The restriction of visitors started around Christmastime, she explained.
“When people come in with a cough and a fever, we recommend that they wear a mask. It is to protect them and to protect the rest of us too,” Knopp said.
Although it seems that there may be slightly less of a problem in terms of numbers locally, Knopp said that it is still serious enough to keep the controls in effect. “We are seeing more of the ‘B’ strain as opposed to last year when we saw more of the ‘A’ strain. The ‘B’ tends to affect more of the kids, not necessarily the young kids, but the school age kids.
“We have had a lot more school age kids this year,” she said. “We gave out as may flu vaccines this year as we did last year. I still have them available. We are still recommending that people get vaccinated if they have not.”
She said that the facility offered flu shots in the fall and a lot of people attended the events. “Now, if a person comes in asking for a flue vaccine we will handle it so they are in and out and not in the area where people with influenza are at – kind of a separate area of the clinic. They are usually in and out very fast and not mixing with people,” she said.
“We have given over 500 vaccinations at the clinic this year.” That figure does not include the vaccinations given by the public health office, Knopp said.
If one family member is sick, it can easily spread to other family members, she added. “Often the flu cases we see are much less than the actual cases in the area.”
According to Knopp, influenza can spread easily when people infected are out in public.
If people call, the staff can do a triage over the phone, telling the call what they need to do or if they should get an appointment for an examination and treatment.
One way to differentiate between a cold and influenza is that influenza has a very rapid onset of fever, she explained.
“The biggest thing with influenza is the abrupt onset of the high fever. The fevers can usually be 101 degrees to 103 degrees and even up to 104 degrees,” she said. “A cold is usually a gradual onset.”
When it comes to influenza, along with a severe fever, there are often body aches and everything hurts. “It can be hard to lift your arms and legs. They also can have a cough, chest congestion and discomfort and the throat pain can be quite severe,” Knopp said.
One big suggestion Knopp tells people if they are sick, to stay home and don’t go out shopping ot where lots of people are.
“Our people at the front desk are very good at triage. Our clinic is set up in pods where there are separate areas in the clinic,” she said.
“We usually do first come, first served and the ones that are healthy try to avoid the areas they (influenza patients) are in,” she said. “If people call in and say they are sick, we try to help them.”
Knopp had suggestions for people who are feeling sick.
“The biggest thing is if you have influenza, stay home. Don’t be going to the basketball game or the grocery store,” she stressed.
“You need to take care of the fevers. But if it continues to progress and people can not keep fluids down, getting weaker or having difficulty breathing, they need to follow up whether they have insurance or not,” she said.
For those people who think they have beaten influenza or the symptoms, they should not go out unless they have been fever-free for more than 24 hours at least, she stressed. “That cuts down on the possibility of transmitting it. Providers are trying to encourage people to stay home for three to five days or more, depending on their symptoms,” she added.
“But the biggest thing is they should not go out unless they are at least 24 hours fever-free without any kind of medication. That goes for strep throat and other illnesses too.”