Flu strikes country, state sooner than ever

Posted at: 01/10/2013 5:37 PM
Updated at: 01/10/2013 6:16 PM
By: Jill Galus, KOB Eyewitness News 4

High fever and muscle aches to the point you cannot get out of bed are among the miserable symptoms that go along with the flu. This is also what many are dealing with across the country and in New Mexico, where flu season is much earlier than in years past.

The flu virus is nothing new, but rather, doctors say, something to be aware of.

"Much of the paranoia and hysteria that's caused is just from the knowledge that we have that these things are coming," Dr. Kevin Harrod, with the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, said.

Since no one can build complete immunity against the flu, the best thing to do is fight it before it gets you first.

"Get a flu shot, every year, even if you got the same flu shot last year," Harrod said. Peggy Way couldn't agree more.

"I have not been sick at all this season and I got my flu shot, I think it was in October, doctor's orders," Way said.

Frequent hand washing is the best way to protect against the flu or any virus, Harrod said. When you cannot do that, hand sanitizer is the next best thing. It is also important to frequently disinfect surfaces and counter tops.

Jessica McKinley, who does not vaccinate against the flu, says she worries about it.

"I do, I do but it's not stopping me from getting out," McKinley said.

The New Mexico Department of Health randomly monitors, statewide, the number of people who show up at clinics, hospitals and doctor offices with influenza-like symptoms.

Most recent data indicates, that is currently about 7 percent of patients, compared to about 3 percent this time last year, with flu season peaking in late February and early March at around 3.8 percent.

In Bernalillo County, 53 people have been hospitalized with the flu this flu season, compared to only 2 at this time last year.

Regardless, some people are not wasting their health worrying.

"Mainly because I guess I feel fine now - I may change my story if I get sick," Louise Savage said.

The best thing you can do is stay home from work or school if you are sick, Harrod said, adding, employers should advise workers to do so.

A high fever is what differentiates the flu from another type of illness.

Albuquerque Public School students returned to class from winter break earlier this week but officials said, there have been no significant number of absences compared to this time last year.