The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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November 10, 2013

Flu cases cropping up

JOHNSTOWN — Cambria’s first two flu cases of the season have been confirmed, the Health Department reports. Somerset County has one confirmed case. Statewide, the flu is reported as “sporadic.”

With holiday gatherings just around the corner, now is a good time to get a flu shot to protect yourself and your family, experts say.

“You will be spending a lot of time indoors and around family,” state Health Department spokeswoman Holly Senior said. “A flu shot is the single most effective way to protect yourself against infection.

“And you are protecting people around you who may be too young to get a vaccination or who have other conditions that prevent them from getting shots.”

Almost everyone age 6 months and older should get a flu shot, said Dr. Richard S. Wozniak, a family medicine physician with Conemaugh Physicians Group in Johns- town.

“If you don’t get the flu, you can’t spread the flu as easily,” Wozniak said, echoing Senior’s advice for healthy individuals who want to protect family members who are at risk for serious complications from the flu.

Pneumonia is the most dangerous complication from the flu – especially for young children and senior citizens, Wozniak said.

“That’s what actually causes death from the flu,” Wozniak said. “It is not the flu itself, but the pneumonia it can set you up for.”

Those age 65 and older, smokers and people with diabetes, asthma or chronic lung disease should consider getting a pneumonia vaccine along with the flu shot, he said.

Although it is too early in the season to tell if this year’s vaccine is effective against the flu strains that will be circulating, the innoculation should reduce the severity of symptoms if patients get the virus, Wozniak said.

“The flu shot is as good as we can get,” he said. “It is not 100 percent effective.”

Those who get sick with flu symptoms, including body aches, fever and respiratory symptoms, should contact their doctor as soon as possible, he added. Anti-viral medication can be given to reduce symptoms and shorten the duration, but it is best administered within two days of the onset of symptoms.

But aside from a trip to the doctor, patients with flu symptoms should stay home in order to prevent the spread of disease.

Frequent hand-washing and covering coughs and sneezes with tissues also are  important, Wozniak said, adding that proper disposal of the tissue adds to protection.

That is the among the advice stressed during employee education sessions Windber Medical Center provided along with its flu-shot program, Quality Director Michelle Hamula said.

“If you are experiencing symptoms of the flu, especially fever, don’t come into the hospital to visit,” Hamula said.

The hospital provides free flu shots for all employees, volunteers and others working in the hospital, she said.

“We did have an overwhelming response from our employees,” Hamula said.

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