Flu cases remain minimal in St. Clair, Madison counties

News-DemocratDecember 17, 2013 

The number of reported flu cases so far this year is minimal, according to health officials. However, at least one hospital in the metro-east has seen an increase in the flu and implemented visitor restrictions.

Children younger than 14 and anyone displaying any flu-like symptoms are asked to not visit patients at St. Joseph's Hospital in Breese.

Symptoms can include fever or chills, sore throat, body or muscle aches, headache, cough or runny nose.

"We're seeing an increasing number of these cases and will continue to restrict visitors until this situation changes," said Paulette Evans, chief nursing officer at St. Joseph's.

To further combat the spread of illness, respiratory hygiene stations with alcohol foam, tissues and masks were placed at all hospital and HealthPlex entrances and near the elevator in the Women and Infants Center.

Marsha Wild, manager of infectious diseases at the St. Clair County Health Department, said the department is starting to see a slight increase in the number of seasonal influenza cases.

"We went from sporadic activity to local activity," she said.

A state is classified as local if there has been recent lab evidence of influenza in a region of the state. Sporadic refers to isolated lab-confirmed cases. Flu outbreaks are classified as widespread activity.

The U.S. Center for Disease Prevention and Control monitors influenza activity online at www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly. According to the online report for last week, Illinois has a "normal" amount of flu cases.

Wild said the St. Clair County Health Department mostly has seen different strains of Influenza A.

Registered nurse and infection prevention coordinator Sue Dinkelman said Memorial Hospital in Belleville has seen a "slight increase" in testing for influenza with three positive tests within the last month.

St. Elizabeth's Hospital spokeswoman Kelly Barbeau said the hospital has seen minimal flu symptoms and only two positive tests for influenza the last several weeks.

Madison County Health Department spokesperson Amy Yeager said they have seen "minimal flu activity" in Madison County. She said flu season peaked early last year, but that isn't the case this year.

"We encourage people to take preventative steps to keep it at minimal activity," Yeager said.

She recommends individuals get a flu vaccine and follow the three c's -- clean, cover and contain. She said people should wash their hands often, cover their mouth and nose when they sneeze or cough and stay home when sick.

Madison County Health Department still has flu shots available at a cost of $35 each during its walk-in clinics Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Children in need of flu shots may qualify for free vaccines through the federal program Vaccines for Children, which are available at both Madison and St. Clair County health departments.

Belleville schools have not seen any flu cases this year.

Belleville School District 118 Superintendent Matt Klosterman said there have been no documented flu cases at District 118 schools.

Belleville School District 201 Superintendent Jeff Dosier said Belleville East and Belleville West high schools have not seen an increase in absences as a result of the flu.

Belle Valley School District 119 Superintendent Lou Obernuefemann said the school has seen "zero cases to date" of influenza.

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 618-239-2562 or jforsythe1@bnd.com.

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