Similar to National Trend, Cape Cod Seeing Uptick in Flu Cases

Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis.

HYANNIS – The continental United States has been blanketed by the flu over the last three weeks and Cape Cod seems to be following a similar trend.

Across the nation last week, 1 out of every 15 doctor visits were for symptoms of the flu. That’s the highest level since the swine flu pandemic in 2009.

Thirty-nine states reported high flu traffic last week, which was up from 32 the week prior.

The Director of Infection Prevention for Cape Cod Healthcare Kathleen Kohut said there has been an uptick in the number of influenza cases at emergency centers, along with the number of cases resulting in hospitalization.

“It certainly is back on the rise again and that’s not uncommon,” Kohut said. “It would be amazing if it was done for the year, but I think we have a few more weeks at least to go.”

Kohut said there are also a lot of influenza-like illnesses being spread around where patients have symptoms that include a sore throat, runny noses and a cough that lasts for several weeks.

“So that’s a little different bit from the flu because it kind of starts as a cold and the cough lasts a long time,” she said.

The flu sets itself apart by having a quick onset.

“You are fine one day and then you are really achy and fevery the next day,” Kohut said. “That is when you really want to pay attention and wonder if you have the flu.”

Anyone who suspects having the flu should call their doctor to have them prescribe Tamiflu, which can provide relief from the symptoms.

“[It is better] than going in to the office and get other people infected while they tell you ‘Yes, you have the flu. Go home. Do this. Here’s Tamiflu,” she said.

After a handful of days of not getting better, calls should then be made to see a physician.

“But in the beginning, if you can just manage it yourself, you are better off staying put,” Kohut said.

Getting a flu shot is still the best way to avoid getting the virus.

“It’s not 100 percent effective,” Kohut said. “But between having it and not having it, it is much more protective.”

She also recommends staying away from anyone you know is sick.

“If you think your friend has the flu you shouldn’t be going an visiting them,” Kohut said.

Other prevention efforts include hand hygiene and individuals who are sick should use proper cough etiquette.

Nationally, hospitalization rates for Baby Boomers has been unusually high, according to CDC officials.

Kohut said she hasn’t gotten the data yet to see if an increase of hospital stays on Cape Cod has been seen for individuals ages 50 to 70.

“We try and follow our flu patients by age so we can kind of see what the trend is, but I have not been told it’s any different this year than any other.”

The same virus was the dominant flu bug last winter, when the flu season wasn’t as bad. Researchers are not sure why this season, led by the same bug, is so much more intense.

Some believe that many of the people getting sick this year managed to avoid infection last year.

Another explanation may be some degree of mutation in the virus that hasn’t been detected yet, according to Dr. Dan Jernigan, with the CDC.


Material from the Associated Press was used in this article.

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