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Flu taking a toll on Pike County

Two weeks after Gov. Kay Ivey declared a public health emergency to ease the burden of hospitals overtaken by patients with the flu, an official at Troy Regional Medical Center said the emergency room is still “bombarded” by people with the illness.

“We are seeing tons of it here around our facility right now,” said Amanda Pyron, infection control nurse. “We want to try to get the word out right now to people visiting the hospital if it’s a necessity.”

Pyron said that people who are feeling severe symptoms should come to the emergency room right away, but people feeling first signs of the flu should visit a walk-in clinic or even just put in a call to their primary care physician.

“Doctors are definitely being more lenient of giving Tamiflu over the phone,” Pyron said. “I think that would cut down some of the congestion in the ER.”

Corey Kirkland, area administrator for the southeast district of the Alabama Department of Public Health, said calling a doctor or visiting a clinic may have more benefits than just relieving hospital workers.

“It may also get you out quicker,” Kirkland said.

According to Kirkland, at the first sign of flu symptoms, patients should contact a doctor or visit a clinic to get antivirals as soon as possible.

“Whether you see doctor in person or use a “teledoc,” getting antivirals within the first 24 or 48 hours can weaken the disease and keep you from fighting it for such a long time,” Kirkland said.

Pyron said more adult patients have been coming in with flu symptoms than children have, although they kid be going to pediatricians instead.

Local superintendents Lee Hicks and Mark Bazzell say they have not dealt with widespread flu conditions at this point though in either of their school systems.

“I actually haven’t had any reports of excessive absences or the flu impacting us yet,” said Bazzell, Pike County Schools superintendent. “We may have had a few cases, but thankfully it certainly hasn’t been enough to have a big impact on our attendance. One of the things is that we’ve had a lot of kids at home confined to their houses the last few days (due to winter weather). None of the nurses have called me with any concern; so far, so good.”

Hicks, Troy City Schools superintendent, said he thinks a proactive approach has lent to fewer students contracting the flu.

“When the governor puts a state of emergency out there for the flu, we take extra precautionary measures,” Hicks said. “We already emphasize washing hands. Nurses do a great job seeing our students when they’re not feeling well and really working with parents. If they’re not well, they’re taken home or to the doctor and parents have done a good job of calling us and letting us know their child has been diagnosed with the flu so we can go in and provide extra attention to cleaning those areas.”

Out of all prevention measures, Pyron and Kirkland both said washing hands is an absolute must.

“If you can’t use soap and water, use hand sanitizer,” Pyron said. “We’re making everything readily available to protect patients at the hospital from the flu.”

Kirkland said it is never too late to get a flu shot to help prevent the flu.

“Flu season can run until March or April,” Kirkland said. “It’s not too late to get a vaccine. Go ahead and get it.”

Pyron said flu shots aren’t available right now at the hospital, but are being offered at most local doctor’s offices and walk-in clinics and that flu shots are covered by insurance in most cases.