Wyoming influenza reports starting to pick up
With Wyoming flu activity reports starting to pick up, the Wyoming
Department of Health (WDH) is reminding residents how to help avoid
becoming ill with influenza or spreading the virus.
Reggie McClinton, epidemiologist with WDH, said while overall flu
activity is low, he is seeing reports indicate noticeable increases in
the state’s northeastern and central areas. “National reports are
starting to show more illness as well,” he said.
“Our last flu season was highly severe with at least 27 flu-related
deaths, a number much higher than what is typically reported in
Wyoming,” McClinton said.
Influenza 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. Dr. Alexia Harrist, state
health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH, said influenza should
never be overlooked or accepted as a minor problem because it is
familiar. “We see serious illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths due to
flu every season,” she said.
“Nearly everyone 6 months or older should get a seasonal flu
vaccine. Flu shots are safe and the most important action people can
take to help prevent getting ill with influenza and passing it on to
others,” Harrist said. “In addition to helping you avoid the flu in the
first place, vaccines can also help make illnesses less severe for those
who do still get sick.”
Flu shots remain available in many locations such as public health
nursing offices, retail stores and medical clinics. “Because it takes
about two weeks for flu vaccines to offer protection you may still
become ill if you’re exposed to a flu virus in the meantime,” Harrist
said. “The takeaway message is to get your flu vaccine as soon as
Common-sense measures can also help slow or prevent influenza’s
spread. “Staying home from work, school, daycare and errands when you
are ill is important. Covering your mouth and nose with your sleeve or a
tissue when you sneeze and cough and frequently washing your hands are
also effective,” Harrist said.
Doctors may recommend prescription antiviral medications to help
treat influenza. These medications may be especially helpful for persons
at higher risk for flu complications such as young children, older
adults, persons with chronic medical conditions, persons with challenged
immune systems, pregnant women, 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
“For antiviral medications to be a good option, it is important to seek medical care quickly once you become ill,” Harrist said.