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Officials report jump in flu cases

By JOHN PFEIFER jpfeifer@paducahsun.com

Flu cases are increasing in the Paducah area and across the country, and health officials expect more people to be affected this year than last.

Alex Wright with Mercy Primary Care in Paducah said the flu is "currently very active in the community." He advised those who haven't had a flu shot to get one as soon as possible.

"Last year's flu vaccine was not as effective as this year's," Wright said.

Dr. John Cecil, medical director at the Cecil Clinic in Paducah, agreed: "The vaccine this year appears to be a good match."

Neither Wright nor Cecil has had a flu case this year with someone who had received a flu shot.

Wright said an ample supply of flu vaccine is still available and dismissed the notion that a shot can lead to sickness.

"You cannot get the flu from receiving a flu shot," he affirmed. He did note that protection from a flu shot may take up to two weeks to take effect.

The CDC reported earlier this week that flu outbreaks appear to be a little worse than last year with particularly high instances being reported in the Northwest and Northeast.

In Kentucky, the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department reported two flu-related deaths this week. Louisville health officials reported more new flu cases last week than in the previous seven combined.

Wright recommended frequent, thorough hand washing to help avoid the virus and suggested people sneeze into the crux of their elbow rather than into their hands.

"If you get the flu," he said, "increase your liquid intake by one or two cups per day and treat your symptoms with one teaspoon of raw honey every three or four hours."

While flu cases are increasing, reports of norovirus -- often mistakenly called "stomach flu" -- are receding.

The highly contagious norovirus causes inflammation of the stomach and intestines that leads to diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain. The local area was hit heavily with the virus around Christmas when people gathered with their families.

Cecil referred to norovirus as "a mean little bug that comes out of the blue" and can pass through an entire family in 12 to 14 hours.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports there are between 19 million to 21 million cases of norovirus-induced gastroenteritis each year in the U.S.

"When you have norovirus, you feel like you have to get better to die," said Cecil, adding that 95 percent of people get better with two to three days of rest and fluids. "â ¦ There are no medicines for it, so all you can do is tough it out and stay hydrated."

He advised frequent, small sips of liquid because "anything more than 2 to 3 ounces is going to come back up." He said acidic soft drinks could make things worse and warned against consuming red-colored beverages "because vomiting red stuff can be pretty disconcerting."

When it comes to norovirus, old-fashioned remedies often work best.

"Chicken noodle soup is still a great remedy," he said.

He said dehydration is the most serious consequence of norovirus, and advised adults who consume liquids without an urge to urinate to contact their primary care physician.

"Parents should also be aware of children who cry without tears because that's a sign of dehydration," Cecil said.

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