The Lynn Community Health Center has been put to the test this flu season.
A surge of patients have visited the center describing their flu-like symptoms, according to registered nurse Tammy Sands. That’s a common site at clinics across the country as medical staff deal with the worst flu season since 2009.
Sands says the center has seen 34 cases just this past week.
“It’s one of the worst years we have seen in a while,” she said.
Sands also manages the immunization clinic with children from Lynn Public Schools and said kids, patients with preexisting conditions and older people are those most at risk.
“We’re really trying to push the flu vaccine on children and others at risk, it’s very important,” she said.
The center is dealing with a shortage of influenza test kits and saving ones available for patients most at risk of having difficulty dealing with the flu, according to Sands.
What they have in abundance are flu vaccine shots available for anyone 18 and under. Others are encouraged to come in and sign up for insurance if needed.
This year’s flu season is as bad as the Swine Flu epidemic nines years ago, and 1 in 13 visits to doctors this past week were for flu like symptoms, according to an AP report. This season’s intensity has surprised experts, who believe it’s being driven by a type of flu virus that results in more people being hospitalized and more deaths.
Sands encourages anyone suffering from secondary infection along with influenza should visit the emergency room right away.
North Shore Medical Center Doctor Barbara Lambl says that their local hospitals are also working to combat the surge of flu patients.
“It started sometime around early December and has gathered strength like a storm through January and into this month,” she said.
The canter’s hospitals are full of patients, and the number of confirmed flu cases has already exceeded all of those last year, Lambl said.
Symptoms can include things like a runny nose and fever, which can be similar to a common cold. But people with the flu will generally have a fever over 100 degrees and body aches, according to Lambl.
With long emergency room waits, Lambl urges people who are generally healthy and suffering from symptoms to stay home and combat the flu by getting some rest and staying hydrated. She says people with chronic secondary illnesses including diabetes, kidney disease, and heart conditions should go to the emergency room.
“Fortunately, we have been able to keep up with the load and have plenty of medicine and antibiotics,” she says.
How to deal with the flu
Lambl has four tips for combating the spread of the flu.
First is hand hygiene, which includes cleaning hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer like Purell.
Second and third are what she calls good cough manners and sick etiquette. This includes coughing into your sleeve and staying home when you feel sick so you don’t spread the virus.
Lastly, she recommends that people still get the flu shot even if it may have been less effective this flu season. She says the vaccine is better than nothing and can make symptoms much more mild, which means less time feeling sick.