Flu bug invades region

Whether in class, in line at the grocery store or at work, it has become hard to escape the sounds of sniffles, coughs and sneezes – flu season is upon us.

West Virginia Public Health Commissioner Dr. Marian L. Swinker said Friday that nearly 1,400 cases of flu have been confirmed across West Virginia.

Locally, Randolph-Elkins Health Department Infectious Disease Specialist Bonnie Woodrum said cases of the flu have doubled from week to week for the last three weeks.

“A couple of area schools are above their normal rate of absenteeism,” Woodrum said. “The flu vaccine includes the identified influenza strains, and taking the flu shot gives folks a better chance of not needing hospitalization. Nothing is 100 percent effective, but the flu vaccine is a great defense.”

The Randolph-Elkins Health Department still has flu vaccine available.

“We have regular clinics for the flu vaccine Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons,” Woodrum said. Further information is available by calling 304-636-0396.

Davis Health System is helping conquer the flu by spreading the word that the best protection is prevention.

DHS has designed a flier and fact sheet, “Spread the word, not the flu,” that will distributed to all elementary school children in Randolph, Tucker, Upshur and Barbour counties.

Influenza is a viral infection of the respiratory system that can cause mild to severe illness, and may lead to hospitalization and sometimes death. It is spread when respiratory droplets from one person land in the mouths or noses of people nearby.

The flu is also transmitted by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your own eyes, nose or mouth.

The flier recommends frequent hand washing to help reduce the chance of contamination from common surfaces. It also recommends using alcohol hand gel, which is 99.9 percent effective at removing germs and bacteria.

Signs and symptoms of the flu include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, stuffy nose, body aches, headache, fatigue and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting. If you have the flu or are experiencing symptoms, you should stay home and avoid contact with others. This helps prevent the spread.

Ways to prevent catching the flu include getting a flu vaccine, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue, avoiding contact with sick people, avoiding touching the T-zone (eyes, mouth, nose), frequent hand washing and keeping in good health by getting plenty of sleep, drinking fluids, exercising and eating nutritious foods.

Flu sufferers should get plenty of rest and drink clear fluids. Seek medical care for difficulty breathing, shortness of breath or chest pressure.

Davis Health System will be distributing free hand sanitizer at Elkins YMCA basketball games, basketball games at the Belington Civic Center and at the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Luncheon Jan. 30 at the Randolph County Community Arts Center.

Flu shots are available at Buckhannon Medical Center, DirectCare of Elkins, DirectCare of Parsons and the office of Dr. Amanda Pennington. A free flu shot clinic is slated for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 23 at HomePlus, at 22 Buffalo St. in Elkins.