With reports showing widespread influenza cases around the state, Wyoming Department of Health representatives are encouraging Wyoming residents to take common-sense precautions to avoid getting ill or spreading the flu to others.
Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus. Symptoms include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. Influenza can cause severe illness and complications, particularly among older people.
According to Clay Van Houten, Wyoming Department of Health emerging diseases section chief, influenza activity is widespread in Wyoming at this point. “We’ve seen a significant increase in influenza reports over the last couple of weeks and there is influenza activity in nearly every area of the state,” he said. Two flu-related deaths have been reported to the department for this season. Both involved elderly residents; one from Uinta County and the other from Fremont County.
Dr. Tracy Murphy, state epidemiologist with the Wyoming Department of Health, said basic common-sense measures can help slow or prevent the spread of influenza. “Simple steps such as covering your mouth and nose with your sleeve or a tissue when you sneeze and cough; frequently washing your hands; and staying home from work, school, day care and errands when you are ill can help,” he said.
Flu vaccines are also still available in many locations. “It takes several days for flu vaccines to offer effective protection against the virus,” Murphy explained. “However flu season typically runs several weeks in Wyoming so if you have not received the vaccine it may still afford some protection. If you’re exposed to the flu virus during the interim you may still become ill with influenza, but it will not be caused by the vaccine.”
Murphy said, “If you do become ill, be sure to get lots of rest, drink plenty of liquids and avoid using alcohol or tobacco. You can also take medications to relieve your symptoms, but avoid giving products containing aspirin to children or teens with flu-like symptoms.”
In some cases, a doctor may recommend prescription antiviral medications to help treat influenza. Prescription antiviral medications may be particularly useful for persons at higher risk for complications from flu such as young children, adults 65 years of age or older, persons with chronic medical conditions, persons with altered immune systems, women who are pregnant or soon after delivery, persons less than 19 years of age who are on long-term aspirin therapy for other conditions, those who are extremely overweight, and residents of nursing homes or other chronic-care facilities. “For antiviral medications to be a good treatment option, it is important to seek medical care quickly if you get flu-like symptoms,” Murphy advised.