Although Gila County still has only two officially confirmed flu cases, health providers say the flu is spreading “like wildfire” throughout the community.
As of the end of 2012, the state health department listed only one laboratory confirmed flu case in Gila County and one more in the first week of 2013.
However, “there is a lot more activity now,” said Lorraine Dalrymple, who is with the county’s health department.
She added the county still has children’s flu vaccines available and urged parents and guardians to get their children immunized.
To help accommodate working families, the county health department will extend its hours to 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11 to provide flu shots for children 6 months to 18 years. No appointments are necessary.
“It usually starts with the kids getting sick from school and bringing it home to their families,” Dalrymple said.
Adults not yet immunized should also get a shot now. It generally takes two weeks for the vaccine to become effective.
“It’s spreading like wildfire,” said one health care professional in Payson.
Still, figures suggest that the flu has struck other areas much harder already.
Hospitals in the Mesa area are seeing an increase in the number of elderly coming in with flu and a respiratory virus and the symptoms are becoming more severe, according to a Jan. 9 report in the East Valley Tribune.
Arizona’s flu activity is now classified as widespread, according to the most recent state health department report. It goes on to state, “It is estimated that there are 1,000 cases for the first week of 2013. The cases included in this report represent a small proportion of the true number of cases of influenza. Many people do not visit the doctor when ill and doctors should not be expected to run tests on all patients exhibiting influenza-like symptoms.”
Across the country, people are suffering from a particularly vicious strain of the flu and an increase in respiratory illnesses (such as RSV, sinus infections, ear infections, the common cold and bronchitis).
In many cases people can’t tell the difference.
Cold vs. the flu: Fever, runny nose, fatigue, headache and muscle aches are symptoms shared by both the cold and flu. Here are some ways to help you tell the difference: The Cold — Symptoms tend to develop gradually: runny, stuffy nose; scratchy throat; sneezing; watery eyes; mild fever (below 102 degrees)
The Flu — Symptoms can appear suddenly, without warning: nausea; cough without phlegm; chills; body aches; sweating; often fever (typically above 102 degrees); lack of appetite; vomiting (more common in kids); diarrhea (more common in kids).
Health officials say the flu spreads easier in the dry, winter air and viruses can live on non-porous surfaces (such as plastic and stainless steel) for up to 48 hours.
In addition, researchers say the average adult touches about 30 objects each minute. That means all those high traffic areas in homes and offices are harboring viruses.