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Local influenza cases

by Lauren Thornton Tobin

For the FCT

Flu cases in Franklin County have been on the rise since November, according to Chief Clinical Officer at Russellville Hospital, Belinda Johnson.

Johnson said the hospital has seen about 20 cases in December alone, compared with just five cases last month, and they’ve all affected those 14-years-old and younger.

“This is pretty typical for December,” she said, “it started a couple weeks early this year.”

The hospital has been giving the flu shot, and encouraging its staff to get the flu shot since October, Johnson said.

People who are most at risk for infection are babies, young children and the elderly, according to Johnson.

Although the hospital cases have been on the rise, Johnson said none of them have been severe or life threatening.

“Everybody we have seen has been treated and discharged,” she said.

“On the contrary, no one has tested positive yet at Dr. Santos’ office in Russellville,” said medical assistant Jennifer Groce.

“We’ve had a lot of patients with flu-like symptoms, but nobody tested positive.”

Groce said the office has regularly given flu shots this year, and that could be the reason they are not seeing any cases so far.

“It seems like more elderly patients get sick easier than a 30 or 40-year-old,” she said. Groce mentioned that everyone is susceptible.

Only if someone tests positive or has a low white blood count, which indicates infection, will he or she receive a prescription, Groce said.

“As long as white blood counts are normal, patients are recommended to treat symptoms with over-the-counter medications,” she said.

The pharmacist at Russellville Drugs, Allison Bailey, said she hasn’t seen many prescriptions for the flu medication.

“I’ve seen a lot of congestion, runny nose and fever, but not the flu,” Bailey said.

Bailey said most of the prescriptions she’s received have been preventative cases.

“We usually see more (flu) after the first of the year,” Bailey said.

An LPN, licensed practical nurse, from Phil Campbell Medical Clinic said the office had its first positive test for the year, last week.

“I think Phil Campbell is just getting started,” she said.

According to the Center for Disease Control website, seasonal flu cases can begin in October, but typically peaks in December and February. The season can last until May.

The site also says that there is no way to predict how long or how severe the virus will vary from year to year.

“Flu viruses are constantly changing, so it’s not unusual for new flu viruses to appear each year,” says the CDC website.

The CDC lists various ways to prevent the flu, such as getting a flu vaccine, staying away from sick people, regular hand washing and staying away from work or school if symptoms are evide