The Never-Ending Influenza
Despite an effective vaccination to combat an abnormally early start to flu season, hospitals continue to fill. According to an NPR article, this year’s particularly long outbreak has quickly become cause for concern, affecting people of all ages including babies, the elderly and the often forgotten college crowd. In places like Boston or New York State, local governments have even gone so far as to declare public health emergencies.
“We started to see a lot of activity in the South an in the Southeast in the middle of November and toward the end of November, which was about a month earlier than we normally see,” said Spokesman for the Centers for Disease and Prevention, Tom Skinner in the hospital stress article. “And since that time, activity has really picked up across the country to where most states are seeing either moderate to severe activity.”
According to the hospital stress article, health facilities are managing through the extended flu season the same way Bill Frohna, MD, who runs the emergency department at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington DC, is – by stocking up on extra supplies, “beef[ing] up staffing of doctors and nurses” and separating those with flu symptoms as fast as possible. In lieu of the swine flu outbreak in 2009 and facing the new H3N2 strain of the flu, schools are battening down the hatches in preparation for the start of new semester -- while hospitals prepare for an influx of patients with no end yet in sight, especially in DC where the presidential inauguration has almost arrived.
“Usually there’s a week or two of ramp up, a peak, and then a week or two of downturn,” Frohna continued in the NPR article. “So far, we've basically been on a ramp up for about five weeks, and I’m not sure if we've seen the peak yet.” In regards to the inauguration, he later continued, “I’d be tickled pink if the flu was on the downturn when a million visitors come to town. It’s causing me to lose sleep already.”
While “every day feels like Monday” at hospitals around the country, another story chronicled the spread of the flu through the work place as employees debate whether to stay home or tough it out. Don’t be “Patient Zero,” as one company, Zeno Radio, referred to an employee who had gotten the company sick a few months prior. The current vaccine is 60 percent effective – relatively high according to the hospital stress article, but still no guarantee.