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Last updateWed, 23 Jul 2014 8am

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Feeling the flu? You're in good company

With the flu raging in Halifax County, many are searching for ways to prevent infection, and county doctors’ offices are taking the necessary precautions to decrease the spread of the virus.

According to Southside Health District Epidemiologist at the Halifax County Health Department Rhonda Pruitt, the flu is very active this year.

“For the past two weeks, we have been at wide spread flu levels across the state,” Pruitt said.

 The flu is constantly evolving causing spikes and decreases in activity throughout the seasons, she added.

The Virginia Department of Health 2012-13 flu guide said the flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs causing mild to severe illness and at times can lead to death. 

The flu virus can affect people of all ages and is spread through exposure to discharges from the nose and throat of an infected person. The flu is often spread by coughing, sneezing or talking. 

A person also may get the flu by touching a surface or object with the virus on it, and then touching their mouth, eyes and nose. Symptoms appear one to three days after exposure.

Pruitt recommends people get vaccinated and practice thoroughly washing their hands.

Information provided by the Virginia Department of Health located in Richmond and the CDC confirmed the flu vaccine is a good match for this year’s flu strain, Pruitt said. However, exposure to the flu before vaccination might affect the effectiveness of the vaccine. 

Those exposed to the flu before vaccination may still develop symptoms, but they we will be less severe, she added.

Pruitt said symptoms include sore throat and cough. Runny nose, stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, fatigue, chills and sometime diarrhea and vomiting are also symptoms.

Pruitt recommends those with symptoms contact their physician so they can be diagnosed and treated accordingly. The typical treatment used for flu infection is called Tamiflu, she noted.

The epidemiologist suggests those infected should avoid going out in public.

“Anyone with symptoms should not be at work or school,” Pruitt said.

According to Pruitt, it is best to keep a distance of six feet away from someone who may be infected with the virus, and those infected should practice coughing in a tissue or in the fold of the arms to help prevent spreading the virus.

Pruitt said the health department has encouraged clinics and doctors offices to provide patients with masks and proper hand hygiene to prevent the risk of staff members becoming infected.

Charlotte Davis, site director at Halifax Primary Care located on Aubrey Loop in South Boston, said they also are encouraging patients to wash their hands and offering masks to patients whether they are sick or simply to prevent spread of the virus.  

Davis said disinfecting rooms after seeing infected patients and wearing masks are ways nurses and doctors at Primary Care keep from getting infected. 

This year, she has seen a large number of people who have been infected with the virus, and the clinic has had to order extra doses of the vaccines, which they currently no longer have in stock.

Davis recommends people avoid high volume areas, wash hands, keep hands away from their face, wear a mask around people who cough and disinfect the handles on the carts at grocery stores.

Amber Tingen, a nurse assistant at Southside Medical located on South Main Street in South Boston, said that office is taking similar precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. 

Tingen also recommended drinking orange juice for vitamin C. 

To prevent the spread of the virus throughout the staff, those patients calling in after experiencing symptoms for 48 hours are automatically prescribed Tamiflu, so they won’t have to visit the office. 

This year Tingen said the clinic didn’t carry the vaccine because they had just moved to a new location. 

Dr. Sherry Hall, a physician at the clinic, said even though they didn’t provide the flu shot this year, flu shots are available at Walmart, CVS and Walgreens. 

According to Hall, the strains of flu going around this season are covered by this flu vaccine.

Tammy Saunders, a nurse at Fuller Roberts Clinic located off Wilborn Avenue, said staff in that office also encourage hand washing and offer masks to infected patients. They also provide hand sanitizer at the check in and check out desks, she added.  

Saunders said nurses and doctors try to avoid bodily excretions and wash their hands thoroughly when dealing with infected patients in an effort to prevent being infected with the virus.

Fuller Roberts highly recommends the flu vaccination as a way to prevent infection.

“This has been the worst season we’ve seen in years. It hit soon, and a lot of people have been infected,” Saunders said. “We have plenty of flu vaccine available for children 6 months and older and adults.”