Health Watch: New with the flu

By Laura Ann Sills - bioemail

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Influenza activity in the United States remained elevated during February, and officials do not see the numbers changing any time soon.

In the Columbus area, the flu has been circulating since September.  This year the health department says local elementary schools are catching the brunt of it.

"So much congestion, coughing, sore throats." That is how Pine Ridge Elementary School Nurse Lottie Davis describes the symptoms she sees on a daily basis.  She told News Leader Nine that she sees at least five kids a day come in with flu-like symptoms.

"They put everything in their mouth, they touch everything, and if you don't tell them to wash their hands, they generally are not going to."

After last years H1N1 outbreak, teachers and parents are much more aware of the flu and the importance of washing your hands.

At the Growing Room Day Care in Columbus, they began a program where everyone going in, and everyone coming out has to sanitize their hands. They say this has significantly decreased the number of students that are out sick with influenza.

Davis says if students don't have a fever, they are encouraged to come to school.  "Especially with the decreased number of school days that we have, we want them in school," said Davis.

If a fever is present, a parent is called. If the fever reaches 100 degrees, a sure sign there is an infection, the student must be sent home.

Adults are not immune. Pam Fair with the Health Department said this year both influenza type A and B are going around. On top of that, there are two strains of each. Making a total of four types of the flu circulating. Because of this, if you have had the flu, you can get it again.

Even if you have had the flu or flu-like symptoms, you are encouraged to get a shot.

Fair said there is some positive news, this year there is better surveillance of the flu and patients are getting test results back more quickly.

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