HealthThe Putnam Examiner

Health Dept. Reports Flu Cases on the Rise in Putnam County

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The Putnam County Health Department is reporting an increased number of influenza cases in recent weeks.

According to officials, flu cases jumped from eight in the week ending November 13, to 60 cases in the week ending December 4. Half of the cases were individuals in their late teens and early 20s.

The Health Department has alerted healthcare providers to have increased suspicion for flu. Prevention methods such as mask-wearing, frequent handwashing, and respiratory etiquette that are recommended for COVID-19 will also reduce risk for flu. Those who have not already received their flu vaccine this season are encouraged that it is not too late to get vaccinated.
COVID boosters or primary series shots can be administered at the same time as the flu vaccine and are advised by healthcare experts to protect yourself and your family this holiday season. Both vaccines are also currently being given at local pharmacies.

Meanwhile, with winter rapidly approaching, the Health Department is encouraging residents to enjoy outdoor activities safely. Temperatures usually drop about 10 degrees each month from October through January, with average lows in

December around the freezing point of 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Fresh air and sunshine, paired with walking and other outdoor exercise, can have positive impacts on a person’s physical and mental health especially in winter,” said Health Commissioner Michael J. Nesheiwat, MD. “There are however cold-weather risks of which everyone should be informed. If a person’s body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit due to prolonged exposure to cold, this can lead to hypothermia, a serious and potentially deadly condition. When this occurs, the heart, other organs and the nervous system slow down and malfunction. If left untreated, it can lead to heart or respiratory failure, and possibly death.”

Older adults and infants are among those at higher risk for hyperthermia since they are less able to regulate their body temperature. Symptoms to watch for include shivering, memory loss, clumsiness or lack of coordination, slurred speech or mumbling, shallow or slow breathing, drowsiness or low energy, and loss of consciousness. Infants suffering from hypothermia may have bright red or cold skin, and low energy. Medical attention is needed if hypothermia is suspected. While awaiting help, the person should be brought to a warm room, and any wet clothing should be removed.

Certain factors increase the risk for hypothermia. These include exhaustion, older age, very young age, mental health issues, dehydration, certain medications, and alcohol or drug use. However, anyone can suffer from hypothermia given the right set of circumstances. Even athletes can become hypothermic during strenuous outdoor activities, losing heat quickly if they become extremely overtired, dehydrated, and damp from sweat. Hypothermia can also occur indoors, and this is of particular concern with the elderly.

Recommendations from the National Institute of Aging suggest setting the thermostat to at least 68 to 70 F. Infants less than one year of age should never sleep in a cold room. To prevent loss of body heat, they should sleep in warm clothing, not with blankets which put them at higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome or SIDs.

Frostbite is another cold-weather concern. This injury is caused by the freezing of a person’s skin and underlying tissues, typically hands, feet, nose, ears, chin, and cheeks. Having poor circulation or not being properly dressed for the outdoors can put someone at a greater risk of developing frostbite. With early frostbite, also known as frostnip, no permanent damage occurs. The earliest signs are cold skin with a prickling sensation, which leads to numbness. As frostbite worsens, discolored skin and a hard or waxy appearance to the skin develops. Discolored skin can vary—red, white, blueish-white, grayish-yellow, purplish, brown, or ashen tones may result.

Wearing multiple loose layers of clothing, as well as hats, mittens or gloves, and scarfs are effective methods for limiting cold weather problems and appreciating the full benefits and enjoyment of outdoor winter activities.

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