Medical Center Seeing More Flu

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Payson Regional Medical Center is seeing an increase in emergency room visits by people with the flu. People at high risk for developing serious complications include children younger than 5, adults over 65, pregnant women, and individuals with medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease whose condition may worsen if they get sick from influenza.

“Over the past three weeks, PRMC has seen a handful of confirmed cases of Influenza A,” said Kerry Cassens, RN, MS, MPH, COHN-S, director of Infection Control and Employee Health at the hospital last Friday.

PRMC advises everyone to get a flu shot, particularly those at high risk.

Both the Payson Walgreens and Safeway pharmacies have flu vaccines available, as does Diversified Solutions. The county health department has children’s flu shots.

PRMC has no visitor restrictions in place, but the staff is monitoring health conditions in the community and will cooperate with any guidance from the health department if it identifies such a need.

However, the staff urges visitors to stay home if they are sick to avoid bringing additional germs to people hospitalized and at increased risk of illness.

Patients with a scheduled procedure or in need of medical care should not hesitate to come to the hospital. For information, contact the Gila County Flu Hotline at 1-800-304-4452 ext. 8111.

Neighboring Coconino County is also seeing an increase in flu cases. As of Jan. 10, there were 110 confirmed cases of the flu compared to just three at the same time last year, according to a notice from the Coconino County Public Health Services District.

Officials said the number of confirmed cases represents only a small percentage of the actual cases since many don’t seek treatment or testing.

About flu vaccines

The vaccines manufactured for every flu season must rely on expert guesswork. Each year the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Influenza Surveillance Network bases the vaccine on three circulating flu strains that seem most likely to cause significant human suffering in the coming season.

Due to the high mutation rate of the virus, a vaccine usually only provides protection for about a year. The WHO Global Influenza Surveillance Network has four WHO Collaborating Centers and 112 institutions in 83 countries, called National Influenza Centers. These NICs collect specimens in their countries and then perform primary virus isolation and preliminary antigenic characterization. They ship newly isolated strains to WHO CCs for high-level antigenic and genetic analysis, which forms the basis for that year’s vaccine.

Flu vaccine is usually grown in fertilized chicken eggs. The manufacturing process begins following the announcement (typically in February) of the WHO recommended strains for the winter flu season.

Flu cases hitting blood supply hard

United Blood Services has announced an urgent need for blood donors.

The cold/flu season has hit Arizona hard, with 1,000 new cases last week alone, resulting in a high number of donors canceling appointments.

If you are healthy, make an appointment to give blood at the Payson Community Blood Drive. The drive will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday, Jan. 21 at the Shepherd of the Pines Evangelical Lutheran Church, 507 W. Wade Lane.

There will also be a blood drive in Pine from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 19 at the First Baptist Church of Pine, 4039 N. Highway 87 in the gymnasium.

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