Flu outbreak prompts response from IRMC, EMA
So many people in the Indiana County area are ill with flu-like symptoms and influenza that Indiana Regional Medical Center and the Indiana County Emergency Management Agency will make free flu vaccinations available Saturday at three locations.
According to the most recent weekly Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Influenza Surveillance Report, the Indiana County area has had above-normal visits made to health care providers for flu-like symptoms and influenza.
David McDevitt, infection control coordinator at IRMC, said the hospital had 73 confirmed cases of flu in December, up dramatically from just one case in December 2010 and no cases in December 2011.
The total number of confirmed flu cases at IRMC this flu season (starting in October) stood at 97 as of this morning, according to McDevitt.
Dawn Landis, nurse manager at IRMC's two Urgicare locations in Indiana and Blairsville, said each of the locations was treating about 20 to 30 patients per day at the beginning of December. Those numbers jumped to 30 to 40 patients daily at each location by mid-December. And by the end of December, each location was seeing 50 to 60 patients daily.
Landis also said IRMC is experiencing an increased demand on the hospital's emergency services department due to the impact of influenza. The ER was nearly at capacity Thursday, she said, with many patients complaining of a cough, aches, sore throat, fever and chills, fatigue and the rapid onset of those symptoms.
IRMC officials are asking individuals to take preventive measures to avoid the flu. Those measures include:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- Practice good health habits. Get plenty of sleep and exercise, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy food.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
- If you are exposed to or caring for someone with the flu, wear a mask and talk to your doctor about preventive antiviral medications.
And, the hospital advises, everyone 6 months of age and older should get vaccinated against the flu.
To make flu vaccinations more convenient, IRMC and Indiana County Emergency Management Agency are establishing three sites for county residents to receive a free flu vaccination Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The sites are IRMC at Chestnut Ridge (25 Colony Boulevard, Blairsville), IRMC at Marion Center (the Mahoning Medical Center, 100 Neal Ave., Marion Center) and Urgicare at IRMC (875 Hospital Road, Indiana). There is no cost and appointments are not needed.
To help reduce the impact on patients that require emergency care, individuals with flu symptoms are encouraged to contact their primary care physician before seeking emergency department treatment. If patients are unable to be seen by their primary care physician they are encouraged to first seek appropriate outpatient care.