THE 2016 FLU SEASON

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By. Ken Johnson, President & CEO of Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System

December 21 marks the first day of winter and the change of seasons may result in adverse weather patterns, including moisture and frigid temperatures, conditions that are synonymous with the flu season.

The timing, severity and length of the flu season is difficult, if not impossible to predict, and varies from year to year. The only certainty is that there will be a flu season.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter months. In fact, they may start as early as October and in some cases, continue through May. During 2015, approximately 36,000 Americans died from flu complications, while an additional 200,000 sought hospitalization. This resulted in an annual cost to the nation’s economy of $80 billion.

Some flu viruses are severe enough to require hospitalization at Hutchinson Regional Medical Center (HRMC). Flu viruses can also be life threatening if patients have other chronic illnesses.

Diabetics run the risk of high blood sugar levels suppressing the immune systems which can lead to severe flu symptoms.

Asthma patients have a higher risk of pneumonia, acute bronchitis, and respiratory distress syndrome during the flu season.

Patients undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatments for cancer have a reduced ability to fight off infections, so cancer patients experiencing flu symptoms should contact their physician immediately.

Most health organizations recommend anyone over the age of six months should get a flu shot, including pregnant women. Normally, it takes as long as two weeks after getting the shot before you are protected from the vaccine.

Harvard Health Publications, an entity of Harvard Medical School, recently published a list of “flu myths.”

One myth says we may actually catch the flu as a result of the vaccine, which is not true according to the list.

Others claim that an annual shot is all you need as a protection from the flu virus, which may not be accurate. Those who take the flu shot should also avoid contact with others who have flu symptoms and wash their hands several times each day as a precaution.

Harvard Health Publications states that as many as 30 percent of people carrying the virus aren’t experiencing flu symptoms.

While some feel annual flu shots are not necessary, Harvard Health Publications states otherwise, and points out the virus changes and mutates annually.

To those who say chicken soup is a major healing factor in treating the flu, this edible has no magic ingredients; however warm or hot liquids may have a soothing effect in treating flu symptoms.

Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System has a plan in place for your protection in anticipation of the flu season.

Respiratory hygiene stations containing sanitizing gel are available at each hospital entrance, along with complimentary masks and tissues for visitors to use while on the HRMC campus. Also, hand washing stations are available at other entities of HRHS including Hospice and HomeCare of Reno County, Health-E-Quip and Horizons Mental Health Center.

Visitors are never far from a “Cover your Cough” sign, located at the hospital entrances, elevators, and admissions desk to remind staff and guests of the need to utilize every precaution available to avoid the spread of germs.

Patients entering the Emergency Department are checked for flu-like symptoms, which include a body temperature exceeding 100 degrees, along with a cough or sore throat. Then, prior to discharge, every patient is offered the opportunity to receive a flu shot.

A dose of precaution for our patients applies to our employees as well. In the months proceeding the flu season, HRHS offers every employee an opportunity to receive a flu shot without charge. Throughout the year, our employees are encouraged to remain at home on days they are not feeling well.

Also, we discourage family members and friends from visiting hospital patients if they are not feeling well themselves or may be recovering from any contagious disease.

We extend our best wishes for a Merry Christmas and happy and joyous holiday season and say thank you for the confidence you have placed in Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System during 2016.

We look forward to the opportunity to partner with you for your healthcare needs in the coming year.