Officials: Flu cases on the rise

COLUMBIA CITY — It’s a little later than usual, but local health officials say they are starting to see an upswing in local flu cases.Heather Reid, public health nurse at the Whitley County Health Department, said local doctors are just starting to see cases of the flu and expect it to rise in the coming days and weeks.“It’s a later onset than usual,” Reid said, noting that influenza cases usually start rising after Christmas.Superintendents at Smith-Green and Whitko school corporations said schools in their districts have not yet noticed increased absenteeism due to sickness.“We’ve actually seen an increase in attendance since Christmas break,” said Steve Clason, superintendent at Whitko schools.Steve Darnell, Smith-Green’s superintendent, also said that fewer students were out this year at this time than last year, but expects that to change.“We’re anticipating February is when we’ll start to see it,” Darnell said.Dr. Pat O’Connor, superintendent at Whitley County Consolidated Schools, said the district was in the midst of collecting data regarding absenteeism.Reid said that WCCS school health officials have reported to her department “lots and lots of children out,” indicating the virus is starting to make its way into the schools.Dr. Lisa Hatcher, the county’s chief health officer, said residents should remember FACTS when trying to determine if it’s the flu or another illness.F — FeverA — AchesC — ChillsT — TemperatureS — Sudden onset of symptomsHatcher also said that if patients get to the doctor within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, there are medications available that will shorten the duration of the flu.Otherwise, if symptoms last longer than a week, flu patients should seek medical help.To help avoid getting the flu, Reid reminds residents to wash their hands with either soap and water or use alcohol gel, sneeze into sleeves and, if they are sick, to stay home. Reid said the health department is still giving flu shots, and will do so until the end of February. Anyone who wants a flu shot can stop by the health department, located in the Whitley County Government Center, during regular business hours