"The number of people diagnosed with influenza type illnesses at Mary Washington Health Care’s hospitals is a little lighter than at this point last year," Dr. Bigoney told Fredericksburg Patch. The hospitals -- Mary Washington Hospital, Stafford Hospital and Lee's Hill Emergency -- administer a nasal swap lab test to determine if a person has the flu.
“We’ve been monitoring it [the flu] closely, and we’ve seen a gradual increase in the number of cases over the past few weeks,” Bigoney said. “I expect the numbers will increase before the decrease, but it’s certainly not an epidemic year.“
How can you tell if what you have is the flu or just a cold?
“The flu generally differs from cold in that you feel sick all over,” Bigoney said. Symptoms can include fever over 100.4, cough -- especially a dry, non-productive cough -- runny nose, headache, sore throat, sneezing, runny nose and feeling exhausted.
The best treatment is prevention. “Do all you can to prevent getting sick,” Bigoney said.
You can still get a flu shot. It will take up to two weeks for the antibodies to become effective, but then it can help. Other preventative measures include frequent hand washing, covering your coughs and sneezes – if you use your hand make sure you wash it before touching anything or anyone else – and wearing a mask if you have or are around people with symptoms.
If you think you have the flu, you can treat it yourself. Make sure you check with your doctor or pharmacist if you have other illnesses or take other medications. In general, Dr. Bigoney recommends:
- Naproxen, acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever and aches.
- Expectorant for nonproductive coughs.
- Cough suppressants at night to help you sleep.
- Decongestants – don’t take these if you have high blood pressure.
- Nasal sprays, especially saline sprays.
- Plenty of fluids to keep your body hydrated.
- Healthy food.
- Lots of rest.
“Stay home if you’re sick,” Bigoney said. “If you need to go out, wear a mask.”
“Those with weakened immune systems and the young can be prone to secondary infections like bronchitis and pneumonia,” Bigoney said. “If the flu does not follow its normal course, if the fever persists, if you have shortness of breath or you are coughing up phlegm, it’s important to see a doctor.”
Mary Washington Health Care facilities are currently at “Yellow Status,” which means:
- No patient visitors with flu-like symptoms.
- Visitors may be issued masks, protective clothing.
- Unvaccinated associates must wear surgical masks