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‘Less intense’ flu season ends

By Staff | Apr 9, 2011

The influenza season appears to be over for Lee County residents, according to the Lee Memorial Health System’s director of epidemiology/infection prevention.
The incidents of influenza in the emergency departments, frequency of positive laboratory tests for influenza and the number of inpatient cases, clinical impressions of the infectious diseases physicians and feedback from the Lee County Health Department all are taken into consideration to determine if the flu season has ended.
“Our experience here is going back to preseason levels,” Lee Memorial Health System’s System Director of Epidemiology/Infection Prevention, Stephen Streed said, because the indicators have fallen off to lower levels.
This year was not nearly as intense as the H1N1 pandemic last year, he said. Medical personnel saw fewer than half the number of the patients with influenza in the emergency rooms this year than last.
It still is important to have good hand hygiene all year long to stop other viruses and infections from occurring, he added.
“Most diseases are transmitted by touching and moving your fingers by your mouth and nose,” Streed said.
Individuals should also wipe off the shopping cart handles at the store when they use them, stay away from work if they are experiencing flu like symptoms so they do not affect their colleagues and family members.
It is also a good practice to cough into your sleeve rather than your hand, so germs are not spread.
“Be aware when you are sick,” Streed said.
“Influenza is an annual event,” he added. “It happens to a greater or lesser degree every year.”
He said that thousands die every year to influenza, which are unnecessary deaths because it is a vaccine-preventable disease.
Take the vaccine each year so you are not at risk for getting the illness, he said.
Influenza typically starts around November each year, around the time people begin their stay in Southwest Florida from “up north.”
The number of people affected by influenza increases during December, January and February before it begins to decrease in March.
In April, the flu season tends to slow down every year and return to normal preseason levels.
Meanwhile, hospital employees practice what they preach.
Streed said that this year the flu shots numbers were above average for Lee Memorial Health System staffers.
He said the increase is due to their safety initiative of encouraging employees to get their flu shots so they could not get or give influenza to patients.