PARKERSBURG - Hospitals in Parkersburg and Marietta are seeing an increase in flu cases as the illness has been hitting more people over the last month.
Traditionally, the flu season is in full swing in January and February, but people have been hit throughout December as the disease's progress has been more rapid than usual.
By mid-December, more than 10,000 cases of the flu had been reported in West Virginia, the highest total in five years for that time, according to state figures.
The West Virginia Bureau of Public Health is reporting influenza activity as "widespread" for the week ending Dec. 29.
''The state has seen an increase in influenza-like illness (ILI) reported from sentinel providers in all regions and is currently investigating several outbreaks of ILI and influenza at schools and long-term care facilities,'' the Bureau of Public Health reported.
The Camden Clark Medical Center is seeing above-average numbers with regard to flu patients, said Tim Brunicardi, marketing director for the Camden Clark Medical Center
''This reflects what hospitals around the state are currently seeing,'' he said. ''We're seeing larger numbers than last year and we're seeing flu breakout earlier than normal.''
Marietta Memorial Hospital has also seen an increase in flu cases.
''We're seeing about a 5 percent increase in patients in December - mostly attributed to the flu,'' said Jennifer Offenberger, marketing director for the Memorial Health System. ''We're seeing respiratory flu that is viral, which means you need to treat the symptoms. Most of the concerns are achy, cough and fever.''
If flu symptoms appear, they are recommending people drink plenty of fluids (water) and treat the fever and cough with over the counter medications.
''If you have more serious concerns, confusion, dizziness, etc; and/or if you are pregnant and elderly with a chronic condition, seek medical attention if you believe it is necessary,'' Offenberger said. ''Also, the No. 1 way to stop the spread of infection, wash your hands!
''If you have a fever, stay home and rest. Don't expose others.''
Brunicardi said people need to use preventive measures to stop the spread of germs such as covering nose/mouth when coughing/sneezing; washing hands with soap often; avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth; and avoid close contact with sick people.
''If you do have flu symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours,'' he said. ''While sick, limit contact with others.''
Both hospitals recommend people should get a flu shot. The hospitals don't usually offer flu shots to the general public and shots can be gotten at people's doctor's offices and other locations, such as pharmacies.