St. Luke's University Health Network

News

St. Luke's Reminds Public about Flu Prevention, Precautions and Treatment

St. Luke’s Reminds Public about Flu Prevention, Precautions and Treatment

Influenza Update - Dr. Jeffrey Jahre

Jeffrey A. Jahre, MD, FACP, is the St. Luke’s
Senior Vice President for Medical and
Academic Affairs and Chief, Infectious Diseases.
He is board-certified in both infectious diseases
and internal medicine.

Click on the image to watch Dr. Jahre's
comments on flu prevention, precautions and
treatment.

Bethlehem, PA (1/11/2013) – Jeffrey Jahre, MD, St. Luke’s Senior Vice President for Medical and Academic Affairs and Chief, Infectious Diseases, reminds the community that flu shots are still an effective way to prevent this year’s flu strain.

Prevention

“Prevention is always better than treatment,” said Dr. Jahre. “Although everyone is at risk to catch the flu, severity of symptoms and risk of complications may increase in the very young, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. In order to help those populations avoid the flu, we recommend the flu shot for everyone. Children are usually adept at avoiding harsh flu symptoms because they have strong immune systems, but children shed flu germs over a longer incubation period and may infect an elderly relative or caregiver with a weaker immune system.”

Flu shots are available throughout the St. Luke’s Network – primary care offices are offering the vaccinations, as is St. Luke’s Community Health Department by calling 484-526-2100.

Contagious Nature of the Flu

Dr. Jahre continued, ”Please be aware that adults with flu may be infectious a day or two before the onset of symptoms to about 24 hours after the fever has broken, which averages a week later. Children are typically infectious to others for a longer period of time than adults.”

Flu vaccines are still available and are still effective in flu prevention for this season. The vaccine takes about 10 days to two weeks to establish immunity.

Although some people who have had the flu vaccine have caught the flu, medical data suggests that those people have experienced the symptoms to a lesser degree.

The flu is spread by mucus from the mouth or nose. Some very basic precautions should be observed, as with any infectious disease:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or with alcohol based cleaners if not visible soiled.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Common Flu Symptoms:

  • High fever of 102 degrees or higher (this would differentiate from the common cold, which exhibit with low-grade fevers 101 degrees and lower)
  • Muscle / body aches
  • Dry cough
  • Weakness / fatigue
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose

Treatment:

Dr. Jahre recommends seeing a family physician or urgent care center as a first step if you or a family member feels ill. If an elderly or immuno-compromised person has flu symptoms, they may need to be seen in the emergency department.

The flu responds well to anti-virals like Tamiflu ® and Relenza ® for patients whose results are positive for the virus, according to the CDC. Patients are responding well to anti-virals as long as they are treated within the first 36- 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, explained Dr. Jahre. However, those medications are not currently recommended to be used as a routine preventive measure, according to Dr. Jahre, and should not be used as a substitute for the vaccine as a preventive measure.

For people without underlying or chronic health conditions who decide to “tough it out” at home with the flu, patients and families should do the following to help the patient feel more comfortable by treating the symptoms:

  • Drink plenty of non-caffeinated fluids
  • Don’t leave home until you are free of symptoms, except to get medical care. Avoid public places, work and social gatherings.
  • Do not return to work until fever-free for 24 hours
  • Wash hands frequently, especially after coughing, nose-blowing or sneezing
  • Do not share hand towels, utensils, beverages, etc.
  • Wear a face mask if you need to be in a public place

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lists the following emergency warning signs for children, infants and adults who would need to seek emergency care immediately (Call 911):

In children:

  • 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

In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:

  • Being unable to eat
  • Has trouble breathing
  • Has no tears when crying
  • Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal

In adults:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

(Source: CDC website: www.cdc.gov/flu/)


Contact Information

Denise E. Rader
Director, Network Media Relations
St. Luke's University Health Network
484-526-4104
raderd@slhn.org