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Influenza Virus Precautions

Published on 12/20/2012

A Message from Lakewood Health System about the Influenza Virus

Positive tests for influenza at Lakewood Health System’s laboratories have increased greatly in the past week. We want to take this opportunity to inform you about ways you can help prevent the spread of influenza within the community, provide some general education about influenza, and tell you about some of the general symptoms of influenza.

Influenza is a respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness which can sometimes lead to complications and even death. Influenza viruses spread mainly by droplets that are produced when people with influenza cough, sneeze or talk. Droplets land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby, infecting a new individual. Occasionally a person may also get influenza by touching a surface with influenza viruses on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes, or nose.

A person who catches influenza can typically pass it on to others as early as one day before they know they’re sick, and for five to seven days after they’ve become ill. Antiviral drugs can sometimes decrease the duration of the illness by 1-2 days, however, it’s important to know that even when you’re taking antiviral medications you may still be able to spread the virus to others. So, it’s important to stay home and rest when you are ill unless you need to seek medical attention, in which case you should wear a mask to help prevent the spread of influenza to others.

When arriving at Lakewood Health system for medical care, masks and hand sanitizer are available at the front door and at our registration desks. Please use them to help protect each other and keep the virus from spreading. Also, please refrain from visiting a patient in our hospital if you are ill.

Spread of influenza can be decreased through vaccination annually with the flu vaccine. The more of us that are vaccinated, the fewer people there will be to spread Influenza. Influenza strains circulating can change every year, and the three influenza strains in the vaccine can also change every year. Therefore, it’s important to get your flu shot every year. Most people over six months of age are good candidates for influenza vaccine. It’s not too late to receive a flu shot if you haven’t already done so. Call Lakewood’s Clinic for more information: 218-894-1515.

Covering your coughs and sneezes, accompanied by good hand washing (using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers) are other important ways to decrease the spread of influenza. Cover your cough and sneeze by pressing your face firmly into a tissue or firmly placing your face into your sleeve at your elbow if you don’t have a tissue handy, this will help keep the droplets containing influenza viruses from becoming airborne. Always follow up with hand washing.

Common signs and symptoms of influenza may include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills (not everyone with influenza will have a fever)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (feeling very tired)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

For more information or to make an appointment, contact Lakewood Health System at 218-894-1515. For more information on the influenza virus, contact Jon Willgohs, Clinical Director - Acute Care, Lakewood Health System, at 218-894-8820.

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