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Lourdes Emergency Medicine Physician Gives Tips for Preventing Flu, Knowing When to Go to the Emergency Room

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that flu activity is now widespread across the United States. CDC officials say they cannot be certain how severe this season will be, but reports of severe illness and hospitalizations have been received.

New Jersey is among the growing number of states listed with the highest level of influenza-like illness, according to the CDC’s weekly FluView report.

At Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, Emergency Department physicians are seeing a 10 to 15 percent surge in volume. “We have had a steady volume of influenza cases and people with influenza-like symptoms, such as the common cold and whooping cough,” says Dr. Al Sacchetti, chief of Emergency Medicine at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center. “Flu season typically lasts from October to March, and peaks around January. However, it’s still not too late to get a flu shot.”

Public health officials say this year’s combination of flu vaccine has been considered effective against the strains of flu circulating this season.

The flu shot is especially important for high-risk populations: Those over age 65, those who have a chronic health condition that could be aggravated by the flu, people around infants less than six months of age, or those individuals around someone with a chronic condition or compromised immune system.

If a person becomes acutely ill with the flu — including symptoms such as constant vomiting, difficulty breathing or symptoms that temporarily improve but return with a higher fever and worse cough, seek emergency care, says Dr. Sacchetti.

Dr. Sacchetti says the best prevention against flu is using these three, common-sense precautions:

Wash your hands often

Cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing

Stay home from work or school if you are sick

“Influenza is a potentially life-threatening, contagious disease,” says Dr. Sacchetti. “It is important to do all we can to make sure we don’t continue to spread the virus.”

To find a flu vaccination site near you, visit the NJ Department of Health website at http://www.state.nj.us/health/flu/findflushot.shtml.

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