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Flu season hits hard in Carlton County

Dr. Jim Brown, Community Memorial Hospital (CMH) Emergency Room physician, described the current strain of flu that's been making the rounds of area hospitals as "like being hit by a ton of bricks." At the end of his morning shift at CMH on Monday, Brown said about 50 percent of those accessing the CMH Emergency Room that morning complained of suffering from the symptoms of acute flu.

Brown added that over the past five days or so, five people have been admitted to the local hospital due to complications from the flu - bringing the three-week total up to seven - and he doesn't see it letting up any time soon.

"Right now we are thick and heavy with it," he said, "and I don't see any sign of it ebbing."

Brown said although he's seen both children and adult flu victims; all of those he personally has admitted to CMH have been from the older population.

"It really gets the better of them," he commented, adding that a couple of older people came in to be treated for injuries incurred in falls they had taken due to feeling weak after not eating and drinking, later discovering they were suffering from the flu. Another had a pre-existing respiratory condition that made it more difficult to discern the flu virus until examined at the hospital. Brown said flu can sometimes be a bit harder to detect in older people, many of whom simply complain of an ongoing cough and weakness.

Brown said younger people, however, tend to come in complaining about the sudden onset of severe body aches and feeling "really lousy." He added they often report having had a high fever of 102 degrees or more that sometimes lasts three to four days.

In most cases, Brown said, anti-influenza medicines can help minimally, but only if the flu is caught right after exposure or quickly after its onset. He said products such as Tylenol and/or Tamiflu may give some relief, but often the best solution in the long term is lots of rest and fluids. He cautioned that influenza can sometimes lead to pneumonia or sinusitis, so those suffering with it should stay home, avoid exposing others and seek medical help if necessary.

Mercy Hospital in Moose Lake is seeing its share of flu cases as well. Hospital spokesperson Terri Ellison reported on Tuesday that seven cases of influenza have been diagnosed at the hospital and one person suffering from the flu has been hospitalized for complications.

Doctors and health professionals throughout the area continue to stress the importance of getting a flu shot in order to help ward off infection. Brown said the current vaccine is "a good match" for the strain of influenza going around this season, and getting a flu shot now will still go a long way toward protecting a person from contracting the virus. Brown admitted that though the immunization is only about 60 percent effective in helping to prevent influenza altogether, evidence exists that it can often lessen the severity of the virus if it is contracted.

Brown said most of the flu they're seeing in the emergency room at CMH is Type A, but he said there have been some cases of people suffering from the Type B influenza as well.