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Wednesday, January 27, 2010 - South Jersey Healthcare: Prepared for the flu season

Our nation’s foremost authority, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has cautioned the American public that this flu season might be unusually severe. And when it comes to our health, and the health of our loved ones, it is always best to be prepared.
 
As a regional health care provider, South Jersey Healthcare spends significant time and resources preparing for various types of emergencies, including a severe flu season. Key components of the SJH Pandemic Flu Plan include: strategies and techniques for limiting the spread of flu among staff and patients; keeping the community informed to help minimize the impact of the flu on local residents; and partnering with other agencies to meet the health care needs of our community in the event of a major flu outbreak.

Although New Jersey has seen fewer cases of the flu than a number of other states this fall, SJH is ramping up its emergency preparedness internally, and enhancing its ability to provide current information to the community via the Internet. The health system’s web site, SJHealthcare.net, contains a wealth of information about the flu including:

  • public service announcements (video and audio);
    downloadable brochures;
  • a podcast from the NJDHSS; and
    numerous links to information about seasonal and H1N1 flu.
  • The flu hotline phone number for the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services is also posted. Several of the public service announcements and publications are also posted in Spanish.


 “Small changes in what we do as members of the community can make a huge difference,” said David Kaufman, M.D., chairman of Infection Control, South Jersey Healthcare. “Specifically, get vaccinated;
stay home if you have a temperature of 100 F degrees or more and respiratory symptoms; cover up for coughs and sneezes;
wash your hands frequently and/or use handy alcohol rubs; and
call your doctor if initial symptoms worsen.”

The CDC guidelines recommend staying home from work or school until the person has been free of fever for 24 hours. A fever is defined as a temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. For more information about the H1N1 flu vaccine, visit www.flu.gov and click on “Vaccination” link from the menu on the left.

People with flu-like symptoms are urged to stay home and keep to themselves as much as possible. Those who fall into a high risk group for complications should contact their health care providers promptly. The CDC strongly discourages a trip to emergency department unless a person is experiencing serious symptoms. (See, “When to seek medical attention”)

South Jersey Healthcare is a nonprofit, integrated health care system, providing access to a continuum of delivery services. SJH provides hospital services, numerous community health clinics, home health services, and specialty services, which serve the medical and health care needs of Southern New Jersey residents.  All SJH campuses are smoke-free. 

When to seek medical attention
It is possible for anyone, including healthy people, to develop severe illness from the flu. Anyone concerned about their illness should consult a health care provider.

There are also emergency warning signs that should not be ignored. Anyone who has them should get medical care right away.

What are the emergency warning signs?
In children

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
    Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held


Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
Fever with a rash

In adults

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting

    Do I need to go the emergency room if I am only a little sick?
    No. The emergency room should be used for people who are very sick. You should not go to the emergency room if you are only mildly ill. If you have the emergency warning signs of flu sickness, you should go to the emergency room. If you get sick with flu symptoms and are at high risk of flu complications or you are concerned about your illness, call your health care provider for advice. If you go to the emergency room and you are not sick with the flu, you may catch it from people who do have it.
    (Source: CDC Web site)

    What should I do if I get sick?
    Am I at higher risk for complications?

    If you get sick with flu-like symptoms this flu season, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care. Most people with 2009 H1N1 have had mild illness and have not needed medical care or antiviral drugs and the same is true of seasonal flu.

    However, some people are more likely to get flu complications and they should talk to a health care pro¬vider about whether they need to be examined if they get flu symptoms this season. They are:

    • Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
    • People 65 and older
    • Pregnant women
    • People who have:
      • Cancer
      • Blood disorders (including sickle cell disease)
      • Chronic lung disease [including asthma or chronic obstructive
      • pulmonary disease (COPD)]
      • Diabetes

    Is it the flu?

    Flu is a serious contagious disease. Each year in the United States, on average, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 people die from seasonal flu complications.
     
    There is a new and very different influenza virus causing illness called 2009 H1N1. CDC expects both the 2009 H1N1 flu and seasonal flu to cause illness, hospital stays and deaths this season and is preparing for an early and possibly severe flu season.

    Flu-like symptoms include:

    • fever
    • cough
    • sore throat
    • runny or stuffy nose
    • body aches
    • headache
    • chills
    • fatigue
    • Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea
      (Source, CDC Web site)

    What should I do while I’m sick?

    Stay away from others as much as possible to keep from making them sick. If you must leave home, for example to get medical care, wear a facemask if you have one, or cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. And wash your hands often to keep from spreading flu to others. CDC has information on “Taking Care of a Sick Person in Your Home” on its Web site, www.cdc.gov.

    How long should I stay home if I’m sick?

    CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other things you have to do and no one else can do for you. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine, such as Tylenol®.) You should stay home from work, school, travel, shopping, social events, and public gatherings.
    (Source, CDC Web site)