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News Room: FOX19: NKY flu cases increasing in severity
COVINGTON, KY (FOX19) - The Northern Kentucky Health Department has noticed recent flu cases are increasing in severity.
Since early March, three additional people have died and more people are requiring hospitalization for flu. One in four, or 25 percent, of the flu cases reported in the week ending March 23 required hospitalization, a number that is much higher than normal.
"Fighting the flu puts a strain on the body," said Lynne M. Saddler, MD, MPH, District Director of Health. "Most healthy people are able to handle that strain, but for someone who is elderly or has an underlying medical condition, the flu can lead to serious—and sometimes fatal—complications. Many people who die from flu get very ill, very quickly."
A total of five flu deaths have been reported to the Health Department, with two of those reported previously. The three recent deaths were in a Campbell County female, a Boone County male and a Campbell County male. At the time of their deaths, all three had other medical complications besides flu. The Health Department continues to investigate all three cases.
The five deaths represent only those voluntarily reported to the Health Department. Because adult flu deaths are not required to be reported, it is possible that more Northern Kentucky adults have died from flu this year. Pediatric flu deaths are required to be reported, and none have occurred in Northern Kentucky this season.
At St. Elizabeth Hospital, flu cases are up three times what is typically seen in a flu season.
"It kind of looked like a normal flu year in the beginning, but it really has just extended," Deborah Henson said.
Henson is a infection preventionist for the hospital. She says numbers may be up in part to doctors testing more than in previous years. She says people of all ages should take precautions noting that even otherwise healthy adults can suffer from flu complications and even death.
"Generally it's not the healthy person, but there's always that risk," Henson said. "We just would encourage folks to get the vaccine and do those other preventative practices."
Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that a total of 105 children have died from flu through March 16. Though it doesn't track adult flu deaths nationwide, the CDC estimated 7.6 percent of all adult deaths were attributable to flu or pneumonia (a common complication of flu) for the week ending March 16.
For the 2012-2013 flu season, a total of 3,132 cases of flu have been reported to the Health Department, with 105 of those in the week ending March 23.
In most instances, flu can be treated at home with fever-reducing medication, rest and liquids. Certain symptoms signal a more serious infection and require immediate attention. In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness or confusion
- Severe or persistent vomiting
In children emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
- Fever with a rash
"Everyone can help prevent the spread of flu," said Saddler. "Be sure to wash your hands often. Avoid touching your face with your hands, and most importantly, if you are ill, please stay home."
For more information on flu, please visit http://www.nkyhealth.org/seasonalflu.