Doc: Spread of flu in Cobb coming late this season
by Rachel Gray
December 25, 2013 11:26 PM | 2692 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Despite the Georgia Department of Public Health confirming two flu-related deaths in Georgia this season, a local urgent care doctor said the spread of flu in Cobb is happening late this year.

The flu season typically begins in mid-November, peaks in January, and runs through late February or early March, according to the health department.

The department has reported an increase in flu activity statewide, including hospitalizations.

But K.C. Patel, a physician at WellStar’s newest urgent care near the Kennestone Regional Medical Center on Church Street, said he is not seeing a severity of flu, and only a small percent of patients will need more than a prescription treatment.

“Healthier adults and kids will be able to fight the flu off just fine,” Patel said.

From an urgent care stand point, Patel said recovery can be completed in one visit and he has not needed to admit any flu patients to the hospital.

The flu differs from the common cold because of the high fevers, head and body aches, as well as possible nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

“Classically, we say the symptoms are feeling like you are hit by a truck,” Patel said.

People with diabetes, asthma, heart or lung problems, who have low immune systems or suffer from chronic illness, should seek treatment.

Patel said a few patients who have tested positive for the flu did receive flu shots, but there are many more patients he has treated for the flu who were not vaccinated.

“Flu is one of those diseases that is preventable,” Patel said.

New cleaning technology

Out of the 13,000 WellStar employees, 99 percent have been vaccinated with the flu shot, said Marcia Delk, the chief quality officer for WellStar.

“We feel it is important to protect the patient” and reduce the risk of any transmission, Delk said.

Delk said she helps ensure the health care system that serves a population of nearly 1.4 million in five counties has a high quality of care, which includes preventing patients from contracting the flu while at a doctor’s office.

WellStar practices standard prevention measures, such as isolating contagious patients, Delk said.

The health system has also begun using advanced cleaning methods to sterilize hospital rooms, such as Bioquell, a product that mists a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide to decontaminate the air and surfaces.

Most recently, WellStar has converted to using a mobile cart that stands at three to four feet tall, which generates a high-level of ultraviolet light to clean an entire patient room, including the bathroom, in less than 30 minutes.

Delk said this technology reaches tight areas, like the crevices of a hospital bed rail, to leave the area bacteria and virus free.

The outcome of exposure

The Georgia Department of Public Health said sufferers of the flu should be free of a fever without the use of a fever reducer for at least 24 hours before returning to work or school — or what Delk calls “social distancing.”

One Cobb resident is making a plea to fellow residents to stay out of public places if they are in the contagious stages of an illness.

“There are very few errands that are important enough to warrant exposing potentially dozens of people to your illness,” said Greg Henry, of Powder Springs.

Two weeks ago, Henry said he was in a return area at a retail store where a woman was “hacking and coughing open-mouthed.”

Henry said he tried to distance himself, but three days later, “bingo, the symptoms started.”

Those symptoms included “hard” coughing, extreme sinus pressure, and chills, “where you feel freezing, but sweat at the same time,” Henry said. “Plus some other side effects that are too gross to go into.”

Henry said he missed three full days of work, but even when he returned after resting for a weekend, he was only able to work half days for another three days due to a low energy level and constant coughing.

“I’m now around 14 days into it, and even now I still have traces of the cough and am not quite 100 percent,” Henry said.

Henry said his remedies were the “tried and true stuff ... organic chicken soup, zinc drops, vitamins, orange juice, lots of water.”

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