Influenza hitting the Suncoast

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SARASOTA-- Influenza is spreading rapidly around the country, including Sarasota and Manatee Counties. Fortunately, according to the Florida Department of Health, the two counties are seeing a "mild" amount of cases.

Here is a report provided by Sarasota Memorial Hospital as to what nurses and physicians are seeing there:

• Volumes have increased in our three urgent care centers about 40 % (roughly 50+ patients a day with viral symptoms (flu + upper respiratory) at all 3 centers combined — runny nose, cough, fever, etc... - without a test, we cannot attribute all to flu)

• Volumes have increased in our emergency care centers about 8% (roughly 20+ patients per day with viral symptoms)

• The number of positive flu tests we've performed since December 1 is far higher than normal for this time of year – indicating again an early start of the season: 141 (the majority from our ER here and in North Port – does not include visits at our urgent care center), compared to just 5 for the same time period last year. Keep in mind, however, that the majority of our patients are NOT tested. Individual doctors may or may not order a test to confirm their diagnosis/treatment plan according to their medical judgment and patient condition. Typically they order more flu tests at the very start of flu season to help establish that season has indeed begun.

We post signs at the hospital entrances (and provide a box of masks) and ask anyone with flu symptoms to don a mask when entering the facility, and if we see someone with symptoms without a mask, we will ask them to put one on. Our flu patients are placed in isolation rooms to prevent the spread of the virus, and anyone visiting has to follow the same infection prevention precautions that are caregivers do, including donning a mask and gown, when visiting the room of a flu patient. If the risk increases (as with H1N1), we will consider additional infection control precautions.