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Viruses Among Us

pitchett_thumbby Jenny Pritchett, MBA, MPH, RN, CIC, Director of Quality Management & Infection Preventionist at Southwest Health

As the hospital’s Infection Preventionist, I complete ongoing surveillance of illnesses throughout our area and provide guidance and recommendations based on this surveillance. Over recent weeks we have been experiencing a mumps outbreak in the Platteville and Dubuque areas. When caring for patients with suspected mumps, or any other communicable disease, we take all of the precautions necessary to limit their exposure to others.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mumps can be spread person to person through:

  • coughing, sneezing, or talking,
  • sharing items, such as cups or eating utensils, with others, and
  • touching objects or surfaces with unwashed hands that are then touched by others.

Mumps likely spreads before the salivary glands begin to swell and up to five days after the swelling begins.

The most common symptoms of mumps include fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, loss of appetite, and swollen and tender salivary glands under the ears on one or both sides (parotitis). Symptoms typically appear 16 to 18 days after infection, but this period can range from 12 to 25 days after infection. Some people who get mumps have very mild or no symptoms, and often they do not know they have the disease. Most people with mumps recover completely in a few weeks. Contact you healthcare provider if you suspect you have the mumps.

It is important to know that mumps is a vaccine-preventable disease, so make sure you are up to date on your Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccination if you have never had the disease in the past. If you are unsure of your immunization status for mumps and have not had the disease, you should call your healthcare provider to check on your immunization status.  If you are a Wisconsin resident, you can also check your immunization status online through the Wisconsin Immunization Registry at dhfswir.org.

As flu season is upon us, it was inevitable that influenza has arrived in our area. We are starting to see positive cases of influenza in southwest Wisconsin. If you suspect you or a family member has influenza or are experiencing respiratory illness symptoms, please be sure to grab a mask on your way into the hospital or clinic areas, and cover your cough. It is also very important to perform good hand hygiene, especially upon entering and leaving our facilities. Infection prevention kiosks with masks and hand sanitizer are located near each entrance at Southwest Health. Around here, we think you’re cool with a mask on, and we appreciate it!

Most importantly…GET YOUR INFLUENZA VACCINATION if you have not done so already. In order to prevent the spread of influenza among our patients and our community, it is very important to get vaccinated. The strain of influenza currently circulating is covered by the 2016-2017 influenza vaccine that we offer here at Southwest Health. Spreading influenza could cause serious illness or even death to those most vulnerable, such as infants, elderly, and people with weakened immune systems.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Health reports that there have been 161 influenza cases to date this flu season, and 95 influenza-associated hospitalizations, including 8 children and 78 adults ages 50 and older. Of those hospitalized with influenza, 63 percent were aged 65 years and older.

“Getting a flu shot is still one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family and friends against the flu and potential complications,” said State Health Officer Karen McKeown. “There are also many simple steps people can take now to avoid spreading the flu to family and friends and to keep from getting it themselves, including practicing good handwashing hygiene, covering your cough, and not sharing drinking cups and straws.”

Influenza can range from mild to severe, and in some cases can cause life-threatening complications. Symptoms can come on quickly and include fever, headache, dry cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, body aches, and tiredness. If someone does get the flu after getting vaccinated, it is more likely to be a milder case.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone aged six months and older should be vaccinated annually. To schedule a flu shot, contact your health care practitioner, or call the Platteville Clinic at Southwest Health at 608-348-4330.

Health officials encourage you to remember these steps for protecting against the flu:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with your upper sleeve, and try to avoid touching your face with your hand. If you use a tissue, throw it away after one use.
  • Use your own drinking cups and straws.
  • Avoid being exposed to people who are sick with flu-like symptoms.
  • Eat nutritious meals, get plenty of rest, and do not smoke.
  • Frequently clean commonly touched surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, refrigerator handle, telephone, faucets).

If you think you have the flu, call your doctor. Stay home, rest, drink plenty of liquids, and avoid using alcohol and tobacco.

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