Flu epidemic hits Arizona

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Updated on 1/29/13. The Red Cross reported influenza outbreaks in nearly every state in America on Jan. 23, including Arizona.

Dr. Philip Garrod, medical director at the Health and Learning Center (HLC), said the flu epidemic has not yet hit NAU.

“Not yet,” Garrod said. “But then, of course, students have only been back for days. We have certainly seen more people with the flu this week than we saw the week before winter break started.”

One reason NAU may not be suffering so much is more students getting the flu shot.

“We have used up all the flu shots we ordered this year,” Garrod said. “Last year we couldn’t give them away, almost, but this year with this particular strain and its virulence and the amount of information in the media, we’ve had a number of people come in and we’ve used up our entire supply.”

Garrod also said NAU is not able to obtain any more vaccine at present.

“We have tried every supplier known to us and we can’t get any more . . . We have called a number of suppliers and they can’t get any from the manufacturers.”

While NAU is not facing an epidemic of the flu, there have been cases reported at the HLC.

“This week we have made the diagnosis of influenza or influenza-like illness 15 times,” Garrod said.

A press release issued by the Red Cross recommended these methods for prevention and controlling the spread of the flu.

“People 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends covering your nose and your mouth with a tissue or a sleeve when coughing or sneezing, then throwing the tissue away. If a tissue isn’t available, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands. Wash your hands after coughing or sneezing. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Avoid touching your eyes, your nose and your mouth.”

The Arizona Department of Health Services said the flu season is starting earlier than usual and is gaining strength.

“While Arizona typically sees most of its flu cases in February or March, flu can be unpredictable and can peak either earlier or later in the season. This year, flu reports started early and have been increasing over the past few weeks. Approximately 1,000 cases of the almost 2,200 we’ve had this season were reported last week.”

Garrod said if you get the flu you should keep in mind that all you can do is treat the symptoms as they come up.

“Treatment is primarily symptomatic, meaning Tylenol or ibuprofen for aches and pains, cough and cold preparations that you can buy over the counter for those symptoms,” Garrod said. “Antibiotics like amoxicillin or the Z-pak or any other antibacterial antibiotic does not work.  This is a viral illness and not a bacterial illness and that’s what those antibiotics are directed for. As far as academics are concerned they should notify their professor and should stay at home until they have been free of fever for 24 hours.”

Garrod said while NAU is out of the vaccine, it is still available through the Arizona Health Department, Target and may also be available through private practitioners.

“I just can’t stress enough the importance of prevention by getting the vaccine,” Garrod said. “No one knows each year from year to year how serious it will be.”



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