Flu cases ‘rampant’ in region

Published 9:06 am Saturday, January 5, 2013

Barbara Turner of Franklin, left, and Daisy Sykes of Newsoms search for cold medicines at the Franklin Walgreens on Friday. -- STEPHEN H. COWLES/TIDEWATER NEWS


FRANKLIN—Daisy Sykes felt achy while searching for cold medicines at the Franklin Walgreens on Friday.

While the Newsoms resident said she didn’t believe she had the flu, reports of the illness are on the rise, said Larry Hill, regional public information officer for the Virginia Department of Health.

Twenty-seven tested positive for the flu in the last few weeks at Southampton Memorial Hospital, said spokeswoman Anne Williams.

“We started keeping count in October, and there have been 112 flu tests on people in the emergency room or inpatient,” Williams said. “There’ve been no admissions of someone with the flu.”

She added that doctors’ offices have been reporting “rampant” cases of flu. One doctor recently had 11 cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday reported that flu activity continues to increase with most of the nation experiencing high levels of illness. A total of 29 states, including Virginia, are reporting high flu activity.

To reduce the risk of getting sick, Williams advised people to cover their mouths when they cough and frequently washing their hands.

S.P. Morton Elementary School Nurse Starr Harris hasn’t seen many students with the flu.

Usually the numbers increase toward the end of January and in February, she said.

“There were a few kids right before the holiday break. It seems to be better,” said Harris. “We encourage students and staff to use tissues, immediately throw them away and then wash their hands. Don’t share drinks or fluids. And if you’re sick, please stay home.”

Walgreens Pharmacy Manager Sharon Hasty said she’s seen “a ton” of cold medicines and antibiotics bought so far.

Hasty’s also seeing many people taking precautions by getting their flu shots, which take a couple of weeks to become effective.

“The vaccine covers three strains of the flu this year, and we’ve done well over 1,000 vaccines since late August,” said Hasty.

At the store to pick up a prescription, Joyce Culpepper of Suffolk said she and her husband got their flu and pneumonia shots in October.

“I don’t like getting shots,” Sykes said.

Her friend, Barbara Turner of Franklin, also untouched by the bug so far, also refuses the ounce of prevention.

Turner said she knows some people, including her sister, who got sick after getting the vaccine.

Hasty added that getting the vaccine in August won’t mean it’ll wear off within a few months. The shot costs $32.

Rite Aid Pharmacist Mohamed Saleh said the cost there is $30.

There’s been an increase in people seeking the anti-viral Tami flu, he said.

The capsules, which require a prescription, can cost $139 without insurance.

Hasty also said the medicine, which can reduce the flu’s severity, can cost about $100-plus.