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Flu hitting area late in season

February 15, 2011

Jim Condon, RN, BSN, nurse manager at Elk Regional's emergency department and MedExpress, demonstrates the proper handwashing procedure to help prevent the spread of flu and other contagious illnesses. Photo by Victoria Stanish.

During the past week, a late-season run of the influenza virus has occurred in St. Marys and surrounding communities. Dr. David Caruso, a local physician, said the virus usually makes an appearance earlier during the fall and winter months.
"Other states have had it - PA is just later this year getting it," said Caruso.
He noted that the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) work to determine which flu strains will appear about a year in advance and issue guidelines on which strains to put in the flu vaccine. This year's vaccine contained Influenza A and B, which Caruso said were the most prominent strains showing up in area flu cases, particularly Influenza A.
"They actually got it pretty accurate this time - the strains that we're seeing are the ones that are in the vaccine," Caruso said.
Frances Gray, RN, CIC, infection preventionist and quality coordinator for Elk Regional Health Center, said the health center saw its first flu case of the year on Jan. 6, a juvenile outpatient in the acute care unit who tested positive for Influenza A.
"We basically have been seeing Influenza A," Gray said.
She said that between Aug. 30, 2010 and Feb. 14, 2011, the health center tested 136 patients for the influenza virus and confirmed 30 positive cases, half children and half adults.
Caruso, who is also the medical director at Elk Haven Nursing Home in St. Marys, said people were recently asked to limit their visits to the home because of an increase in flu cases there, and that the concern was based more on the vulnerability of older patients' immune systems than on visitors also contracting the virus.
"We are seeing it in the younger population. It's just that older people are much more susceptible to the consequences of this illness," he said.
Marie Rucinski, RN, director of nursing at Pinecrest Manor, said that the nursing home has not had any positive or confirmed cases of flu yet this year. Gray, who also oversees infection prevention at Pinecrest, noted that although the facility has not posted any restrictions for visitors, "We would also appreciate that anyone who is ill, please stay home, don't come in."

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