GREENSBURG – Decatur County Memorial Hospital (DCMH) has seen an increase in the number of patients seeking treatment for flu-like symptoms since November, but those numbers have tapered off slightly in recent days as more people are taking steps to prevent the spread of influenza.
Decatur County Public Health Nurse Diane Berry-Stewart and Health Department office manager Carol Beck said last week that the health department is still offering free flu vaccines to the public during regular business hours, and visitors to DCMH hoping to prevent falling ill with the flu can receive the same shot.
DCMH Infection Prevention Nurse David Pavey said a quadrivalent vaccine can be received between 3 and 6 p.m. Tuesdays at the DCMH immunization clinic. The shots are also available at the Well Clinic located at 955 N. Michigan. That office is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday and Sunday.
Many DCMH doctor’s offices also can administer the vaccine, which is designed to prevent the onset of flu and is intended to protect against all four of this season’s strains. Higher doses are available for seniors over the age of 65, and there is a pediatric dose for children between 6 and 35-months-old. The dose for seniors is not offered for free, but is covered by most insurance providers, Pavey explained.
Pavey said the immunization clinic, in particular, has seen “a dramatic increase” in the number of people seeking flu shots.
“People are realizing it is serious this year,” said Pavey of an illness blamed for the deaths of more than 100 Hoosiers this flu season.
Pavey noted that the vaccine is typically only about 30 percent effective, but those odds are still better than rolling the proverbial dice and skipping the shot.
For anyone on the fence about getting vaccinated this season, Pavey believes the answer to that question is simple.
Yes, you should.
“Even at 30 percent effectiveness, that’s still one out of three people who, if they’re exposed to it, won’t have any problems,” the infection prevention nurse said. “It still decreases your chance of getting the flu. There is very limited risk to getting the flu vaccine for the help that it could give you.”
Anyone who has suffered through this season’s flu will likely be among the first to say that any help available is welcomed.
What appears to start as a sore throat or a sinus infection in a short period of time morphs into a respiratory illness that can last several days.
Pavey said the span of the illness this season is longer than normal and the symptoms are often more severe.
“It’s been a bad year both in the intensity of it and the length of it,” he said. “In past years, if you had a really bad or a dangerous flu season it seemed to be short-lived and was measured in just a couple weeks. This year we have the length and the ferocity.”
Pavey did not have data on suspected flu-related deaths at DCMH. He said patients who exhibit symptoms necessary for further treatment are sent on to the next level of care.
Likewise, Decatur County Coroner Doug Banks said his office had not investigated any deaths where flu was the suspected cause.
Pavey noted that this year’s flu is dangerous particularly for high risk groups, such as children, seniors, those with respiratory problems, and people with high body mass indexes.
In December DCMH implemented visitor restrictions in an effort to help reduce the spread of flu. Visitors under the age of 18 are not allowed in the hospital unless they are a patient or are the parent of a patient, though those exceptions will be made at the discretion of the charge nurse, according to dcmh.net. A full list of the restrictions is available at the hospital’s website as are tips on how to avoid contracting the flu.
Pavey said the reason for restricting that age group is that some young people do not show typical flu symptoms until they are already contagious and spreading the virus.
Anyone seeking more information should contact DCMH at 812-663-4331