SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Officials provide update and information regarding flu


October 23, 2009

Ketchikan, Alaska - Officials from Local Public Health, Ketchikan General Hospital, Ketchikan Indian Community, and the City of Ketchikan Fire Department have been meeting regularly and working on plans for this year's flu season. The group decided it was prudent to get "accurate" information out to the citizens of Ketchikan regarding the flu and in an effort to do so provided the following information.

What are we seeing at Ketchikan General Hospital and the Clinics?

There have been minimal admissions to the Hospital with probable H1N1 since the end of September. Confirmed or detailed lab studies for these cases are still pending.

The KGH Emergency Department, PeaceHealth Medical Group Clinics and Ketchikan Indian Community Clinic are seeing an increase in the number of persons presenting with the ILI (Influenza-like Illness) symptoms (fever, cough, runny nose, congestion, muscle aches and pains, vomiting, diarrhea) over the past two weeks.

The predominant circulating virus in the State of Alaska at this time is H1N1, not the seasonal flu. So the chances are that if you have the ILI symptoms, you have H1N1. When we do a "flu test" it only confirms that you have the flu, not necessarily that you have H1N1.

Currently our rates of persons seeking health care and those testing positive for flu tests are below the state and national numbers.

The hospital and clinics have posted signs around their facilitates to help remind patients and visitors about influenza, covering your cough, hand washing and contact information for further information about the flu. .

The local medical community requests that if you have a fever, cough, runny nose and do not feel well, to not visit persons at the hospital and senior service facilities. Stay home, rest, wash your hands regularly, and get well.

What is the flu?

The flu (influenza) is an infection of the nose, throat, and lungs caused by flu viruses. Flu viruses cause illness, hospital stays and deaths in the United States each year. There are many different flu viruses and sometimes a new flu virus starts spreading among people and making them sick.

What is 2009 H1N1 flu?

2009 H1N1 flu (sometimes called swine flu or novel flu) is a new and very different flu virus that is spreading worldwide among people. This flu season, scientists expect both 2009 H1N1 flu and seasonal flu to cause more people to get sick than a regular flu season. More hospital stays and deaths may also occur.

How serious is the flu?

Most people with 2009 H1N1 have had mild illness and have not needed medical care and the same is true of seasonal flu. However, any flu can be serious, especially for young children as risk is highest in children younger than 2 years and children of any age who have certain chronic medical conditions.

These conditions include:

  • Asthma or other lung problems
  • Diabetes
  • Weakened immune systems
  • Kidney disease
  • Heart problems, neurological and neuromuscular disorders.

Children with these conditions can have more severe illness from any flu, including from the 2009 H1N1 flu virus.

How does flu spread?

Both 2009 H1N1 flu and seasonal flu are thought to spread mostly from person to person through the coughs and sneezes of people who are sick with flu. People also may get sick by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes.

How long can a sick person spread the flu to others?

People infected with seasonal and H1N1 flu may be able to infect others. The time period can range from 1 day before getting sick to 5 to 7 days after. However, some people can infect others longer, especially children and people with weakened immune systems and people infected with the H1N1 flu.

What are the symptoms of the flu?

Symptoms of seasonal and H1N1 flu can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. Some people sick with the flu will not have a fever.

What should I do if I get sick?

If you get sick with flu-like symptoms this flu season, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care. Most people with 2009 H1N1 have had mild illness and have not needed medical care or antiviral drugs and the same is true of seasonal flu.

If people experience flu complications, they should talk to a health care pro¬vider about whether they need to be examined if they get flu symptoms this season. They are:

  • Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
  • People 65 and older
  • Pregnant women
  • People who have:
    • Cancero
    • Blood disorders (including sickle cell disease)
    • Chronic lung disease [including asthma or chronic obstructive o pulmonary disease (COPD)
    • Diabetes
    • Heart disease
    • Kidney disorders
    • Liver disorders
    • Neurological disorders (including nervous system, brain or spinal cord)
    • Neuromuscular disorders (including muscular dystrophy and o multiple sclerosis)
    • Weakened immune systems (including people with AIDS)

It's also possible for healthy people to develop severe illness from the flu, so anyone concerned about their illness should consult a health care provider.

There are emergency warning signs. Anyone who has them should get medical care right away.

What are the emergency warning signs?

In children:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash

In adults:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting

Do I need to go the emergency room if I am only a little sick?

No. You should not go to the emergency room if you are mildly ill. If you have the emergency warning signs of flu sickness, you should go to the emergency room. If you get sick with flu symptoms and are at high risk of flu complications or you are concerned about your illness, call your health care provider for advice. If you go to the emergency room and you are not sick with the flu, you may catch it from people who do have it.

What can I do if my child gets sick?

No matter what age, cover the cough and use good hand-washing methods. If your child is 5 years or older and otherwise healthy and gets flu-like symptoms, including a fever and/or cough, consult your doctor and make sure your child gets plenty of rest and drinks enough fluids.

If your child is younger than 5 (and especially younger than 2) or of any age and has a medical condition like asthma, diabetes, or a neurological problem and develops flu-like symptoms, ask a doctor if your child should be examined. This is because younger children (especially children younger than 2) and children who have chronic medical conditions may be at higher risk of serious complications from flu infection, including H1N1 flu. Talk to your doctor early if you are worried about your child's illness. It is not recommended to have "Flu parties".

How can I protect my child against flu?

  • Get a seasonal and H1N1 flu vaccine for yourself and your child to protect against flu viruses.
  • Take, and encourage your child to take, everyday steps that can help prevent the spread of germs. This includes:
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Stay away from people who are sick.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • If someone in the household is sick, try to keep the sick person in a separate room from others in the household, if possible.
  • Keep surfaces like bedside tables, surfaces in the bathroom, kitchen counters and toys for children clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant according to directions on the product label.
  • Throw away tissues and other disposable items used by sick persons in your household in the trash.

Is there a vaccine to protect my child or adults from the flu?

A yearly seasonal flu vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting against seasonal flu. This vaccine is recommended for children 6 months through 18 years of age and all people who are close contacts (caregivers) of children younger than 5 years of age.

A vaccine against 2009 H1N1 flu is becoming available. This vaccine is recommended for all children and young adults 6 months through 24 years of age. Other people, including close contacts of children younger than 6 months of age and adults with certain chronic medical conditions, are recommended for vaccination too. More information about the 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine and the seasonal flu vaccine is available at and at

Is there medicine to treat the flu?

Antiviral drugs can treat both seasonal flu and H1N1 flu. The priority use for these drugs this season is to treat people who are seriously ill (hospitalized) or people who are sick with the flu and either have a medical condition or are in an age group that puts them at high risk of serious flu complications. Antiviral drugs can make people feel better, get better sooner, and may prevent serious flu complications. These drugs work best when started during the first 2 days of illness. Both adults and children can be prescribed antiviral medication by a physician.

What should I use for hand cleaning?

Washing hands with soap and running water (for as long as it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice) will help protect against many germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

Can my child go to school, day care, or other activities if he or she is sick?

No. Your child should stay home to rest and to avoid giving the flu to other children.

Keep your child home from school, day care or camp for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone. (Fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) A fever is defined as 100°F (37.8°C) or higher.

How long should I stay home if I'm sick?

It is recommended that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for things only you can do. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine, such as Tylenol® or ibuprofen.) You should stay home from work, school, travel, shopping, social events, and public gatherings.

What should I do while I'm sick?

Stay away from others as much as possible to keep from making them sick. If you must leave home, (for example to get medical care) wear a facemask if you have one, or cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. And wash your hands often to keep from spreading flu to others. CDC has information on "Taking Care of a Sick Person in Your Home" at



Call Ketchikan's "Local" Influenza Hotline 228-6581

Call the State Hotline: 1-888-972-6358

Call the CDC Hotline: 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636)

On the Web:


Source of News:

City of Ketchikan Fire Department


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Ketchikan, Alaska