Woodmere resident Alli Berman, who has had the flu for more than a week, received the flu vaccination from her physician in mid-November and thought she would avoid the flu epidemic until she attended a family function earlier this month.
“I thought I dodged a bullet,” she said. “But three people were very ill and showed up because they couldn’t miss the event but I got sick the next day and have been on antibiotics ever since.”
Berman was bed ridden for two days and has been taking vitamin C, eating chicken soup and adding garlic, which is a natural food that helps throat pain, into her diet wherever she can. “I’ve been thrown for a loop and I feel like there is no end in sight,” she said. “I have things I have to do and I cannot afford to be sick.”
Cedarhurst-based Dr. Marc Sicklick said he has been seeing more patients suffering from the flu, including those who have complications due to asthma. “Anyone who has any underlying respiratory or cardiac problems, any immune issues or any other risk factor for increased complications should immediately contact their primary care physician,” he said. “The biggest mistake is saying that ‘it’s just the flu.’ It’s better to be seen for no reason than not to be seen an regret it afterwards.”
Influenza, or the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness that can cause fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue, according to Dr. Michael Stuart, chief medical officer of USA Hockey. “People with the flu are contagious from the moment they begin feeling sick until at least three days after they recover,” he said in a statement. “But some people are contagious for even longer.”
Dr. Rajiv Prasad, chairman of Emergency Medicine at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway, said the hospital has only seen a slight increase in overall volume of patients with the flu. “It’s not as much as the rest of the city,” he said.
Prasad said prevention is key to beat the flu and anyone over six months old, including pregnant women, should get vaccinated. “It takes about 10 to 14 days for peak immunization to develop,” he said. “If someone in their home has the flu, a person can go to their doctor or the emergency room to get medication that will prevent or diminish their risk of getting it. If someone has the flu they can take medication within the first 24 to 36 hours that will reduce their symptoms.”
To prevent getting the flu, Prasad recommends avoiding exposure to someone who has it as particles are expelled into the air when a person sneezes or coughs and wash your hands frequently. “If you’re sick, you should not go to work or school to prevent exposing others,” he said. “And get plenty of rest, fluids and take ibuprofen.”
Hewlett-Woodmere Public Schools has seen an increase of flu cases and flu-like symptoms in the past few weeks, according to Nurse Coordinator Bonnie Rashbaum. “Since the epidemic of swine flu [in 2009] our schools have installed hand sanitizer wall units located throughout each building, as well as signs to remind students and staff to wash their hands,” she said. “It is also stressed to cover mouths and nasal airways when coughing or sneezing.”
Classroom teachers may send students who are coughing and sneezing in class to the nurse’s office, according to Rashbaum, who then evaluates each child and calls their parents, if needed. “Parents are encouraged to take their child to their primary care physician for further evaluation and are told to keep their child home until they are symptom-free for 24 hours or per their medical professional advice,” she said.
Prasad said primary care doctors’ office and pharmacies are the best places to receive flu shots. “We don’t recommend that people go to the emergency room to get it as they are overcrowded; it’s not the right place,” he said. “Your primary physician as well as pharmacists can administer the flu