Flu season sweeps across the county

While some Monroe County residents are gearing up for the flu season, others are recovering from its first strike. With several reports of influenza spreading across the southeast, Mississippi hasn’t been spared.
“We are seeing it earlier than in the last several years. I don’t know if that means we will be through it sooner or if it will be more severe. We look at information from the Center for Disease Control and they’re expecting it to be worse,” said Gilmore Primary Care’s Internal Medicine and Pediatrics Dr. Dwight McComb.
According to West Amory Elementary School nurse Sarah Hodo, the flu isn’t the only illness to be concerned about.
“We’ve had a combination of the flu, strep and stomach viruses. Last Monday our absentee count was at nine or 10, but by Friday that number had tripled.”
The same thing has been happening at East Amory Elementary School.
“We have been having five or six a week where we can’t tell if it’s the flu or strep because the symptoms are so much alike. We have had four or five known cases per week for the past couple of weeks of the flu,” said East Amory Elementary School nurse Jolane Parchman.
Hatley school has experienced the sting from the recent illnesses going around as well.
“Last week was bad for kindergarten through eighth grade. At one time we
had over 100 absences in elementary, as well as four or five teachers. We are better this week. Our teachers are back and the student body is
tremendously improved,” said principal Van Pearson.
Influenza and strep have similar symptoms such as fever, sore throat, headaches and body aches. Both are spread mainly by droplets from infected people being breathed into the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. A person might also come into contact with either illness by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching their own mouths, eyes, or nose.
“We’ve used an overabundance of materials to help fight it. We’ve asked our teachers to spray door knobs, wipe down desks and have their students wash their hands several times,” said Hamilton High School principal Tim Dickerson.
Although Hamilton’s cases were beginning to subside Friday, Dickerson said roughly six percent of the student body and several teachers had been absent during a two-week spell of the flu and strep throat.
The four schools in the Aberdeen School District showed mixed numbers, but absences have been higher than normal. Throughout the district, strep throat seemed to be as bad, if not worse, than the flu.
For some, the timing of the flu season has been especially bad with exams.
“It’s been concentrated in the lower grades, so it doesn’t effect our exams week so much. For our students who have been out with the flu, we know they’ve been sick and we will work with them on their exams,” Pearson said.
With school districts releasing this week for Christmas and New Year’s holiday, the down time should help to prevent further spread of the illnesses.
“The students won’t be in crowded conditions so the break from school should really help. If a child does contract the flu, it just needs to run its course. Those prone to asthma, diabetes, heart and kidney problems may need antiviral treatment,” said Dr. Vickie Jones, pediatrician at Pioneer Community Hospital.
Currently, the standard treatment for influenza is Tamiflu, an antiviral drug which can slow the spread of the virus between cells in the body by stopping the virus from chemically cutting ties with its host cell.
The key to Tamiflu’s effectiveness is timing.
“It needs to be administered soon. After two days it’s not as effective,” McComb said.
Pharmacies are being overrun and some are unable to keep the drug in stock.
“We are filling probably 10 to 15 prescriptions for Tamiflu a day. Since we’re seeing more children, we are unable to keep the suspension in stock, so we’re compounding it here,” said Walgreens pharmacist Amy Weathers.
Smaller pharmacies seem to be having less trouble.
“We are seeing an awful lot, about 20 cases a day for the past couple of weeks, but we haven’t had any trouble keeping Tamiflu in stock,” said Curry’s pharmacist Justin Clark.
An effective way to prevent getting the flu is to get vaccinated. There are currently two types of vaccines- the flu shot and the nasal-spray vaccine. However, it’s very important to remember that it takes the body about two weeks to develop the antibodies that protect against the virus. That’s where old fashioned common sense comes in handy.
“Use good hygiene. Wash your hands. If you develop symptoms, be seen quickly,” McComb said.
News editor Ray Van Dusen contributed to this story.