Flu affecting local community

Published 2:32 pm Wednesday, January 31, 2018

By Beth Alston

AMERICUS — Flu season is taking its toll all over the nation, resulting in deaths and serious illness. The contagious disease is also wreaking havoc in the local population, over-crowding hospitals and clinics and resulting in absenteeism in schools and at workplaces.
Torrance Choates, Ed.D., superintendent of Sumter County Schools, told the Times-Recorder that the school system has experienced some bouts with children having the flu.
“It is very tough having to manage attendance when we are dealing with sickness such as the flu,” he said. “Some of the things we are doing to manage the spread of germs to minimize others getting sick is to make sure that things are clean and sanitized. It seems that each year the battle against the flu gets tougher. I have seen some people take the flu vaccination and get sick and some who have never taken the flu vaccination and not get sick. That just shows the complexity of the various flu strands.”
Southland Academy Headmaster Ty Kinslow the school has had some students and teachers absent with the flu, “but not in mass droves.”
“We’re trying to do everything precautionary and cleaning with Clorox wipes,” he added. “It’s come and gone. A few days have been like normal days this time of the year. We’re fortunate that we haven’t had tons out like some other schools.”
Phoebe Sumter Medical Center has been busy with flu patients. The number of confirmed tests for in-house and emergency department patients at Phoebe Sumter combined for the month of January 2018, as of 8 a.m. Jan. 29, is 130 positives compared to 16 positives for the entire month of January 2017.
Phoebe physicians are offering extended hours at multiple offices to meet the increased demand as the flu outbreak in southwest Georgia continues to worsen. All Phoebe Physicians Primary Care offices are accepting walk-in patients who do not have scheduled appointments. The following offices also are open from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays and will extend their hours until 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The extended hours include Phoebe Primary Care at Northwest, Phoebe Primary Care of Albany, Phoebe Primary Care at Medical Tower One, all in Albany; Phoebe Primary Care & Sports Medicine of Americus, 922 E. Jefferson St., Suite A & B in Americus.
These extended hours will run through at least Feb. 8 when needs will be reassessed.
Weekend hours have also been extended at the Community Care Clinic at 417 W. 4th Ave., directly across the street from the Phoebe Main Emergency Center, Albany. Patients accepted at the clinic from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. seven days a week through the month of February.
As the flu epidemic continues to sweep through South Georgia, it is still not too late to get a flu shot. The vaccine offers your best protection against the flu, according to medical professionals.
Luneda Brown, RN, county nurse manager, Sumter County Health Department, urges everyone to stay healthy this flu season. She advises to follow your private physican’s orders if you are diagnosed with the flu or have flu-like symptoms.
And everyone can help stop the spread of illness and flu by washing their hands frequently and covering their mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. If no tissue is available, people should cough or sneeze into their upper sleeve or elbow, not their hands. When washing your hands, do so for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap. And if soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
“If you or someone with you has symptoms of the flu — fever, fatigue, body aches/chills, cough, sore throat — please ask for a mask at check-in at the health department,” Brown advises.