Doctor: Flu worst in 25 yearsPublished 1:11pm Saturday, January 12, 2013
BY STEPHEN H. COWLES/CONTRIBUTING WRITER
FRANKLIN—This flu season is the worst that Dr. Michael Ponder of Southampton Family Practice in Franklin has seen in 25 years of practice.
“It’s a lot earlier and more intense,” Ponder said. “This year’s significant because flu season started in early December.”
It’s interesting because we don’t expect to see a lot of cases until February,” he added. “It seemed to bypass the West, where it usually starts.”
For the past four weeks, the flu level in Virginia has been widespread, according to Larry Hill, regional public information officer for the Virginia Department of Health.
On average, the flu season runs a two-month course, Ponder said.
“You can’t tell what warm weather’s effect will be,” he said.
Temperatures Saturday through Monday are forecasted to be in the upper 60s to lower 70s.
Lately, about six to 10 people a day have been coming to Ponder’s office with flu symptoms, he said.
Ponder said flu shots are still being given and it’s not too late to get them.
Whether you’ve had your shot or not, Southampton Memorial Hospital’s Kim Marks, assistant chief executive officer, is strongly urging people to wear masks when coming to the hospital or a doctor’s office.
The hospital is restricting children under 12 except if in need of medical attention.
“Our goal as health care providers is to use every available and appropriate measure to protect the community, our patients, visitors, family members, and staff at medical facilities from exposure to outside infections,” said Marks in a press release.
In addition to frequent hand washing, other ways to avoid catching the flu are to “stay away from sick people” and don’t go to stores if you have a chronic illness such as a lung disease, Ponder said.
Infants with smaller airways and the elderly with lower immunity are more susceptible to the flu, he said.