Flu cases on the increase

The best defense is still a flu shot, experts say

The number of reported flu cases in the state continues to climb with more than 1,130 cases reported in Arizona, including nine in Mohave County.

However, the state lab is about two to three weeks behind in its numbers because of the large volume of cases being reported to the lab, said Terri Williams, Kingman Regional Medical Center's public relations specialist. Since the start of the flu season in October, the hospital has seen 108 cases that were confirmed by its lab, she said.

"We've had many, many more cases of the flu than just nine," said Mohave County Public Nursing Manager Christine Bronston. "Those are just sample numbers to determine what kind of flu strains are circulating."

Despite the climb in numbers, this flu season doesn't seem to be any better or worse than previous ones, she said.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, the state saw more than 4,000 cases of flu in the 2012-2011 season and more than 9,000 in the 2011-2010 season.

"We've definitely had an increase, but you will see that at this time in the season," Bronston said.

The hardest hit group of patients in Arizona is people between the ages of 5 and 50.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the flu is a virus that has symptoms similar to the common cold - stuffy nose, congestion, fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, chills, fatigue and sometimes nausea. A doctor can test to see if what you have is the flu or a cold.

Both Bronston and Williams said the best way to prevent getting the flu is to get the flu shot. According to the CDC, this year's vaccine is about 90 percent effective.

"The flu shot is our best strategy. We're still encouraging people to get it, even though it's kind of late in the season," Bronston said. "Even if you get the flu, it can lessen the symptoms."

The Public Health Department does not have the vaccine this year because of the large number of grocery stores, doctors, pharmacies and other outlets that are offering shots, she said.

KRMC is offering two free shot clinics from 9 a.m. to noon Friday and Jan. 25 at the Kathyrn Heidenreich Adult Center, 1776 Airway Ave. The shots are only available to patients over the age of 12, Williams said. Children under the age of 12 require a two-shot regimen that the hospital does not offer at its free clinics.

Other ways to prevent getting the flu include frequently washing your hands and avoiding contact with people who may be sick, Bronston said.

If you feel like you're getting the flu, Bronston recommends contacting your doctor and making an appointment or visiting an urgent care center.

If you have the flu, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral drug that may lessen the symptoms and help you recover faster, she said.

While you're recovering from the flu, stay home and rest and cover your cough, Bronston said. This will prevent the virus from being spread to your coworkers.