Reported cases of influenza in Juneau have quadrupled in the last week, says a nurse at Bartlett Regional Hospital.
Kim Vermedal, a registered nurse and the hospital’s infection prevention specialist, said that this year’s flu season started a little later than usual.
“It’s not too late to get vaccinated,” Vermedal said. “We don’t know how long this season is going to last, but it could last into March.”
Vermedal said most cases of the illness this year are caused by the Influenza A virus, also known as H1N1. She said there have also been a few cases of the Influenza B virus.
“The viruses can mutate and change, so the CDC is watching that closely to see if that will happen with this virus,” Vermedal said.
Some Juneauites have already been admitted to Bartlett because of severe flu symptoms, Vermedal said. Children younger than 5 years old, the elderly, those with compromised immune systems, respiratory problems or cardiovascular problems and pregnant women are considered the most at risk for complications.
Vermedal said people should be extra cautious about washing their hands and to avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth. She said more than 30 people have come to the emergency room at Bartlett because of flu symptoms. Aside from traveling to the hospital from medical care, Vermedal said those infected with the virus should stay home.
“A big thing is that you want to stay home if you’re sick,” Vermedal said. “The flu virus is going to go wherever you go.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that while influenza infections nationally are currently at low levels, infections are expected to increase in the next few weeks. The CDC estimates that over 380,000 people were hospitalized during the 2012-13 flu season; about 119,000 of those hospitalized were between the ages of 19 to 64.