The hills are alive with the sounds of sneezing, teeth chattering from the chills and hacking coughs resonating from the chest.
Yes, it could be the flu. Then again they're flu-like symptoms that only medical professionals can determine whether it's a bonafide case of the flu. Regardless, you're probably feeling like you've been hit by bus, or any other analogy that's appropriate.
If you're feeling like that then stay home. And if your children are exhibiting some of the symptoms, school officials say, keep them home too.
"What’s different with this season is how fast it ramped up to spread, not only in Connecticut but across the country," said Greenwich Hospital's Infection Preventionist Sandra Stricoff. "The potential we’re facing is this widespread phase this season and we don’t have an indication of how long it will last."
Stricoff added, "It’s not like a cold. It’s a very serious viral disease. Symptoms include the cough, the sore throat, the malaise, the fever, some gastro intestinal symptoms, no appetite."
Patients should "be contacting their doctor, particularly if they are vulnerable to complications such as pneumonia…They should contact their health care provider or go to the ER as appropriate," Stricoff added. She could not provide specific numbers but said, "We’re seeing a lot of flu patients locally from Greenwich and other places in Connecticut and from over the border in New York."
According to Greenwich Health Director Caroline Calderone Baisley, "At this time, the state of Connecticut has received 1,680 influenza reports from all eight counties, with Fairfield and New Haven Counties reporting most of the cases. To date, Greenwich has reported approximately 70 cases."
If caught early enough, Tamiflu is prescribed to ease the symptoms and perhaps shorten the flu cycle by a couple days. Greenwich Hospital has been an influx of patients—across all age groups—seeking treatment of the flu or complications, Stricoff said.
On Friday, Jan. 11, Greenwich Public Schools issued an advisory from school nurses, regarding the flu outbreak. It advises parents to keep their children home as their children could remain contagious until 7 days after the onset of flu symptoms. Flu cases must be reported to the school nurse.
Unlike other hospitals in Connecticut, Greenwich Hospital has not experienced shortages in Tamiflu or the swab test kits used to confirm whether a patient has the flue, Stricoff said. The hospital also has not imposed visiting restrictions. "We're following procedures we have in place year round," Stricoff said. The hospital also is offering more hand sanitizing stations and facial masks for visitors.
Steps to Stay Healthy and ways to avoid passing illness to others
- Seek medical attention early, especially if you develop flu symptoms.
- Wash your hands with soap and water (20 seconds) after using the bathroom, having contact with those who are ill, touching surfaces that may be contaminated. Always wash hands before preparing and eating food. Viruses are capable of staying on surfaces for many hours. If soap and water is not available, alcohol-based cleaners (at least 60% alcohol) are effective.
- Avoid preparing food when ill and for up to three days after recovering.
- Avoid touching your face, eyes and mouth with your hands.
- Sanitize laundry of those who are ill separately, using a commercial laundry detergent and hot water.
- Avoid sharing utensils, cups, food, etc. with those who are ill.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces with a household bleach solution after a vomiting or diarrheal accident. The use of a disinfectant can be applied to other surfaces as a general measure.
- Stay home from work or school when you are sick – for at lease 24 hours after your fever (100oF and above) is gone or other symptoms are gone, except to seek medical care. Your fever should be gone without using fever reducing medication or antivirals.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough (your sleeve can also be used).
- Get plenty of rest and eat healthy foods.
- Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated and to prevent secondary complications.
- Take all medications as prescribed, even when feeling better. Over-the-counter medications should be taken with caution since they may interfere with prescribed mediations, cause drowsiness or be a health risk for certain medical conditions. Children and teens should not be given aspirin for viral illness.
- Get vaccinated yearly against flu viruses. The pneumonia vaccine is available and generally recommended for those over 65 years of age. Consult your health care provider for other preventive vaccinations such as Shingles.
During influenza season, the public is encouraged to call the Department of Health Flu line at 203‑622‑3774 for updates.