Flu cases up in the Mid-Ohio Valley

PARKERSBURG – Local hospitals are experiencing an increase in patients with flu-like symptoms.

The Camden Clark Medical Center and Marietta Memorial Hospital have reported seeing more people coming in as the flu season is reaching its peak.

“I checked with Susan Abdella, who is the Emergency Department director, and she confirmed that we are seeing a large number of patients with the flu or with flu-like symptoms,” said Tim Brunicardi, director of marketing and public affairs for the Camden Clark Medical Center. Marietta Memorial Hospital is seeing more people with flu symptoms, said Jennifer Offenberger, director of marketing and public relations for the Memorial Health System.

“We are seeing an influx of patients in our emergency department,” she said. “It is peak flu season and we’re seeing what we expect to – maybe a five percent increase in patients.”

Influenza activity in West Virginia is widespread, said officials with the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health in a release to health care providers, hospitals and health care facilities in the state.

Commissioner for Public Health and State Health Officer Dr. Letitia Tierney said the predominant influenza virus this season is influenza A (H1N1), the same virus that caused the 2009 pandemic.

In 2009, influenza A (H1N) caused more illness in children and young adults, compared to older adults. If influenza A (H1N1) continues to circulate widely this season, illness that disproportionately affects young and middle-aged adults may occur, the release said.

One pediatric death has been reported in West Virginia, the release said.

In December 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health advisory regarding reports of severe respiratory illness among young and middle-aged adults, many of whom were infected with influenza A (H1N1), the release said. “There have been multiple reports of hospitalizations, including many requiring intensive care unit admission, and some fatalities have been reported,” the report said.

Dick Wittberg, executive director of the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, said he is not sure if the flu has hit its peak locally.

“The flu is widespread,” he said. “H1N1 is as mean a bug has it has been.” Wittberg said he heard a report of a death of a relatively young person in the Athens, Ohio, area.

“People really need to think about vaccinations,” he said. “Nationwide, only around 10 percent of people get vaccinated. It is a shame because vaccinations usually help prevent the spread of flu.”

Doctors offices have provided flu shots. Shots have been given out by the health department. Both hospitals have provided them for their employees.

“(Camden Clark) offers free shots to all employees,” Brunicardi said. “Since October, our Employee Health Department has given more than 1,500 shots.

“Employee Health tracks the numbersemployees who refuse the flu shot must sign a waiver,” he said.

Typical symptoms for people presenting locally are fever, aches and cough, Offenberger said.

“If we catch the flu in the first 12 hours, we are able to give some anti-viral medication,” she said. “If someone is having trouble breathing or they are in a high risk for serious flu complications, or their symptoms are worse, they should be seen immediately.

“Otherwise, people need to stay home the first 24 hours, use fever-reducing medicine such as Tylenol, stay away from others as much as possible, cover their cough and sneeze into a tissue,” she said.

People are continually reminded to wash their hands, officials at both hospitals said.

Offenberger said people need to get the flu vaccine as there is still time to do it; avoid close contact with those that are ill; avoid touching one’s eyes, nose and mouth where germs spread most often; and clean and disinfect surfaces and objects regularly.