Flu cases on the rise region, state-wide

By Josh Sigler

Both Parkview Wabash Hospital and the Parkview Health system as a whole has seen a major influx of influenza cases in recent days, officials told The Paper of Wabash County on Thursday, Feb. 8.

“As the whole state of Indiana has, we’ve seen a significant increase in the last few days,” said Angie Martinsky, infection preventionist at Parkview Wabash Hospital. “About half of our patient population that’s been admitted is influenza positive. It’s very widespread in Indiana.”

Northeast Indiana has been hit especially hard, said Kim Jerger, assistant manager of infection prevention for Parkview Health.

“Similar to the state and all of the U.S., we’re seeing extremely high numbers of flu cases,” Jerger said. “It’s probably in the neighborhood of something we haven’t seen since the pandemic of H1N1 of 2009. What’s interesting with this one is it’s not only impacting a large number of people, it’s also hitting much earlier in the flu season. Typically we’d see the flu season peaking right about now, but we saw this one start right around Christmas for us.”

As a result, visitor restrictions have been put in place locally and across Parkview Health.

According to a press release, anyone seeking treatment at the hospital with cold or flu-like are encouraged to wear a mask in the common areas of the complex, including waiting rooms. The hospital will not permit visitors under the age of 18 or any visitors who have flu-like symptoms to visit patients until further notice. And non-essential visitors should be limited to two per day.

“We want to keep our patients safe and our co-workers safe, so we don’t want a lot of visitors coming into the hospital,” Martinsky said. “We want people to stay home if they’re sick. We encourage hand washing and staying home from work or school if you’re sick. (We try to) educate on hand washing and covering your cough.”

Both Jerger and Martinsky said it’s encouraged that everyone six months or older get the flu vaccine, even though some reports have said that the vaccinations are only 10 to 30 percent effective.

“But, what we have to remember is we’re seeing people who are vaccinated aren’t as sick,” Martinsky said. “They aren’t being admitted to hospitals as much as the un-vaccinated individuals. We should still be getting vaccinated. The complications are less severe.”

If you think you have the flu, Martinsky recommended, first off, to stay away from other people.

“Most people don’t know you can be exposed to the flu from somebody standing six feet away,” she said. “The droplets travel throughout the air and can land in your eyes or mouth. Cover your cough and stay away from other people.
“If you go to the physician, they can prescribe a medication. Usually we hear it called Tamiflu. It’s an anti-viral (medication). It doesn’t kill the virus, but it does shorten the amount of time you may be sick.”

Jerger said to check in first with your family physician in lieu of going to the emergency room, unless your symptoms are extreme.

“Really try to use your primary care first, because emergency rooms are busy right now through this time of year,” Jerger said. “And (visiting the E.R.) promotes the spread of the illness, because you have sick people who are waiting who are sick with flu along with people who are there for other illnesses or injuries. If you’re not ‘that sick,’ see your doctor. But if you’re experiencing urgent-type items, certainly go to the emergency room.”

The Indiana State Health Department sent out an alert Friday, Feb, 9 that the flu outbreak continues to be wide reaching, reporting that 167 Hoosiers have died from the illness so far this season.

“This is a severe flu season, and unfortunately there are no signs that it has peaked yet, said State Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D in a press release. “Hoosiers should do everything they can to protect themselves and their families, including getting a flu vaccine and staying home if they are sick.”

Posted on 2018 Feb 13