The Portsmouth Regional Hospital emergency room is booming, and that is never a good thing when it comes to the ER. Thanks to the flu, hospital staff are seeing scores of patients who are sick from this flu season's strain.
"We are seeing a steady influx of patients who are coming into our emergency room with the flu and if someone presents flu symptoms, we ask them to wear a mask," said Nancy Notis, a Portsmouth Regional Hospital spokeswoman. "We are seeing more cases than we have in many years."
Notis said that with the state of emergency declared in Boston because of the flu epidemic there, hospital officials are watching the flu's progress in the city very carefully. She said hospital employees are required to have flu shots and wash their hands at hand sanitizer stations all around the health care facility.
Notis is hoping that if there are people in the community who have not received a flu shot yet, that they will get one at area pharmacies or at their doctor's offices. "If you are sick, make sure you stay home," she said.
Barbara Pamboukes, the director of the Portsmouth Schools Nursing Department, said she and her staff are watching flu cases that have cropped up among students and staff very closely.
Pamboukes said they are seeing more children and adults come down with flu-like symptoms this year than they did a year ago. "It's starting earlier," she said.
One of her concerns is that not as many students and staff chose to get flu shots when the Portsmouth Schools conduct flu shot clinics in October. She said school officials are sending letters home to parents this week that includes a flu guide from the Centers for Disease Control.
In Concord, Chris Adamski, director of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services bureau of infectious diseases, said New Hampshire is one of 41 states that have had widespread flu since the season started in October. The state has had 13 influenza deaths in December and 40 flu outbreaks.
"We are seeing an earlier and active flu season and that makes us concerned," Adamski said.
State health officials are closely monitoring hospitals, health care facilities, nursing homes and schools to monitor flu activity. "We haven't seen any huge spikes yet," Adamski said.
Currently, state health officials don't have any plans to hold flu clinics because Adamski said there is enough available vaccine. She firmly believes that getting a flu shot is the first line of defense against influenza in addition to washing hands regularly with hot, soapy water or sanitizer. Most importantly, Adamski said people who develop flu-like symptoms such as fever, sore throat, coughing, etc. should stay home so they don't spread it to others.
Here are the state DHHS's best ways to prevent getting sick with flu:
- Get the flu vaccine.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially before
touching food, after using the bathroom, and after changing diapers
- Use an antibacterial hand gel for the times you cannot wash your hands
with soap and water.
- Use a tissue to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze,
throw away the tissue, and then wash your hands.
- Stay home from work or school if you have flu-like symptoms until 48
hours after the symptoms stop.
- As much as possible, stay away from people who have flu-like symptoms.
- Eat right, exercise, and get plenty of sleep.
- Wash frequently touched objects, such as door handles, kitchen and
bathroom surfaces, drinking fountains, and phone receivers, with a
- Avoid sharing utensils, such as glasses and spoons, and food.