Putnam County has mild flu season

Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Girl Scout cookies have arrived to be distributed in northern Putnam County. Helping to sort the boxes at the National Guard Armory in Greencastle were (from left) Stephanie Russell of Troop 302, cookie chairman Linda Gregory and Angela Reed of Troop 302.

Putnam County's flu season has been fairly mild this year, but that hasn't been the case in other parts of the United States where as many as nine children have died from the illness so far.

In Nebraska last week, doctors were monitoring at least four children who contracted the illness and in South Carolina, at least three schools were forced to shut down due to the high number of students who were sick with the flu.

In Oklahoma, one school district reported 350 students out sick last Friday, but they did not close the school.

Nothing to that degree has happened in Putnam County this year, Putnam County Health Officer Dr. Robert Heavin told the BannerGraphic Tuesday.

In December, he said he was concerned about several occurrences of influenza type A that seemed to be targeting children in the county. He advised parents to make sure their small children were vaccinated for the flu.

This week Dr. Heavin said he has continued to see the flu affect a lot of small children, mainly those who attend preschools in the area. But he has seen fewer cases in adults this year.

Dr. Heavin is classifying this season as average and believes it is at or near its peak right now. He said people can get the flu during any month of the year, but most occurrences are in the months of January and February.

Several cases of influenza type A and B have been reported in recent weeks but nothing that he would classified as alarming.

As always, health officials advise people to wash their hands frequently to prevent catching the flu, along with covering their mouth when they cough or sneeze and staying at home if they become sick, to prevent spreading the illness to someone else.

For those adults who have not been vaccinated against the flu, it's probably too late for this year.

"It would be kind of a waste at this point," Dr. Heavin said.

The weather in recent weeks probably won't have a significant effect on the flu season either.

Dr. Heavin says there are good aspects of a cold, severe winter and bad aspects.

It's good because bad weather forces people to stay home, thereby reducing the spread of any illness.

But it can be bad because once people get back out, such as a trip to the grocery store, they spread their illness to others.

Other than that, Dr. Heavin doesn't believe the weather has much of an effect on the flu season. Some have theorized that a cold winter kills all the germs and there will be fewer illnesses.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 36,000 people die from the flu each year in the United States.

Statistics show there were 47 children under the age of 18, in the United States, who died from influenza last year. The worst flu season occurred in 2003-04 when 153 children died nationwide.

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