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  • Hospital halts rapid flu testing, urges citizens to monitor warning signs

Hospital halts rapid flu testing, urges citizens to monitor warning signs

February 9, 2018

JACKSONVILLE – As of February 8, Onslow Memorial Hospital has stopped doing rapid influenza (flu) tests in the Emergency Department because of a nationwide shortage. The backorder is due to the severity of widespread flu cases in virtually every state.

The hospital is also temporarily limiting visitation to help ensure the safety of its patients, visitors, and staff due to the high number of flu cases being reported.

“To help decrease the spread of flu, we urge everyone to maintain good hand hygiene and cover all coughs and sneezes,” says Kelly Klocek, DO, FACOEP, Emergency Department Medical Director. “Most of the time, healthy adults can recover from the flu at home.”

There are some populations at high risk for complications and hospitalization, according to Dr. Klocek. “These patients include the very young (under 2 years, but up to 5 years old), the very old, pregnant women, and patients with chronic diseases, such as COPD, asthma or heart disease.” [For a listing of conditions that make patients high-risk, please see: www.cdc.gov/flu/antivirals/whatyoushould.htm#atrisk]

Onslow Memorial Hospital can provide blood specimen testing for high-risk populations in whom a flu diagnosis is unclear, but this test does not provide rapid results and will not change initial treatment, states Dr. Klocek.  

According to the most recent data submitted by providers to the North Carolina Division of Public Health, there were 34 new flu deaths in North Carolina in the week of January 28 to February 3. Since October 1, a total of 140 flu deaths have been reported in the state.

This year’s outbreak began in Louisiana and Mississippi, spread to California and the West Coast before crossing the country through the Midwest, South, and then up the East coast.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows the 2017-2018 flu season is by far the worst since 2009 and significantly above their epidemic threshold [source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/#S5]

The 2017-2018 outbreak is different from past years for more than one reason. The dominant strain this year is H3N2 (about 80 percent of cases), the worst mutation. A typical flu season mixes two Type A strains — H1N1 and H3N2, and two Type B strains — Victoria and Yamagata.

The most concerning statistic is that the hospitalization rate is the highest the CDC has ever recorded at this point in the season, including Americans aged 50-64 being hospitalized at unusually high rates.

Staying hydrated is essential during the flu or a flu-like illness. Drink plenty of water and other clear liquids to prevent dehydration. Also, avoid close contact with well people in your house so you can reduce the risk of making them sick. Staying at home and resting are essential to your recovery.

If you, or your child, has any of these warning signs during the flu, please contact your healthcare provider or go to the Emergency Department [source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/consumer/symptoms.htm]

In adults:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

In children:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

In an infant:

  • Being unable to eat
  • Has trouble breathing
  • Has no tears when crying
  • Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal