SITKA - There have been several cases of the novel H1N1 swine flu in Southeast Alaska and patients want to know when they should go to their local clinic and when to stay home.
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services recommends that people with basic flu symptoms stay home from work, school or day care for at least seven days after they develop symptoms, or until they have been without symptoms for 24 hours, whichever is longer. They do not need to see a health care provider unless they develop serious flu symptoms or belong to a high-risk group for serious complications.
The basic flu symptoms are a fever higher than 100 degrees and some or all of the following: headache, tiredness, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, diarrhea and/or vomiting.
People with serious flu symptoms or those with a high risk for serious complications should call their local clinic before coming into the clinic. You will be given a mask to wear during your entire clinic visit so that we can limit the spread of germs and protect our other patients and employees. These are the serious symptoms or high risk factors that need medical attention:
Children - Fast breathing or trouble breathing, bluish or gray skin color, not drinking enough fluids, severe or persistent vomiting, not waking up or not interacting, being so irritable that the child does not want to be held, and/or flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough.
Adults - Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting, and/or flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough.
High-risk groups for serious complications - People at higher risk of serious complications from seasonal and swine flu include people ages 65 and older, children younger than 5 years old, pregnant women, people with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease or cancer, and people with compromised immune systems such as people infected with HIV. People with any of these risk factors should seek medical attention if they think they might have the flu.
SEARHC is taking all necessary precautions to protect its patients and employees throughout the region in case of a swine flu outbreak. SEARHC staff is in regular contact with the State of Alaska Division of Epidemiology and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to keep updated on the current situation.
SEARHC will be following the state's new guidelines for lab tests for the flu. Since the swine flu became the dominant flu strain this month, the state recommends that any outpatient rapid test specimens that result in positives for influenza type A not be sent to the Alaska State Virology Lab for follow-up testing. The rapid test results usually take about 15 minutes and a positive result can be assumed to mean the person has the swine flu and should be treated appropriately.
Updated information on the flu can be found at http://www.pandemicflu.alaska.gov (state site) or at http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/ (national site). The SEARHC site, http://www.searhc.org/ also has information about the flu and how to prevent its spread.
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