While officials at Tomah Memorial Hospital have yet to record the hospital’s first case of the flu, the bug has arrived at its clinic in Warrens.
Hospital infection preventionist Jan Path, RN, BSN, said a 12-year-old boy tested positive for the Type A strain of influenza following a visit to the TMH Warrens Clinic Nov. 29
“I have been expecting for us to get our first influenza for a while because there have been some recorded cases around us, so I knew it was just a matter of time,” Path said. “This is quite a bit earlier than our season usually starts; sometimes it starts in November, but that’s pretty rare. Most often it’s January or February that we really see a lot of cases.”
Last year the hospital had an isolated case in late December with a rash of cases in January.
Path said despite the earlier start, now is the time for people to prepare for the flu season.
“Once we see our first case, you know others are going to follow, so now’s the time to start taking precautions − ensure you have had your influenza vaccine and start putting yourself in optimal health for the flu season,” Path said.
Path stressed that it is never too late to get a flu shot. She said preparations should also include getting plenty of rest, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet.
“Believe it or not, those are things that can truly help you stay healthy in flu season,” she said.
Path warned that the flu should not be taken lightly.
“Influenza can be a very serious illness that comes on with a very sudden onset of a high fever, body aches, cough, sore throat, severe headache and fatigue,” she said.
She also urged people with chronic illnesses, senior citizens and the very young, especially children under the age of three, to seek medical attention if they suffer flu-like symptoms.
To avoid spreading the flu, Path said a person should stay home if sick, practice good hygiene (including washing hands frequently), avoid or limit contact with people who are sick and cough or sneeze into the arm of a sleeve instead of hands.
Path said officials see most cases of flu in December through February with some cases extending into March.
“Winter brings people indoors, and they have a lot more contact with each other and are more confined and don’t spend much time outside,” she said.
Path also mentioned holiday gatherings that can increase flu transmission.