Beaumont launches community hotline for flu information

As influenza sweeps our region and nation, many people are wondering if their symptoms are the flu and want to know their best options for treatment. Should they stay home and tough it out? Go to their doctor's office? Or rush to the nearest emergency center?

To help area residents identify flu symptoms and select a treatment option, Beaumont Health System has launched a free, community Flu Hotline.

Staffed by Beaumont registered nurses, the hotline is a toll-free, 24-hour-a-day community resource for timely, accurate information about flu symptoms and when and where to seek medical attention. The Flu Hotline can be reached at 888-375-4161.

"Area hospitals and emergency rooms are jammed with patients with mild flu or other minor respiratory illness," says James Ziadeh, M.D., interim chief, emergency medicine, Beaumont, Royal Oak. "In most cases, people can get better at home by resting, drinking lots of fluids and with over-the-counter medications. People at higher risk for flu complications should seek medical care from their physician."

People at higher risk include those with asthma, severe heart or lung disease, insulin-requiring diabetes, cancer or other immune-compromising conditions; pregnant women; and those over 65 years of age or under 2 years of age.

People should seek emergency medical care if they have high fevers, with a temperature of 102 or greater, with chills and develop shortness of breath.

According to Jeffrey Band, M.D., Beaumont's corporate chairman of Epidemiology, what's unusual about this year's flu season is its timing.

"We started seeing flu about four weeks ahead of schedule in very early December and the strain causing illness (H3N2) is more contagious," says Dr. Band. "Although the flu vaccine is an excellent match for this year's influenza viruses, fewer people have taken the vaccine this year, because the flu season has been so light the last two years."

The best way to prevent the flu is by being vaccinated each year, according to Dr. Band. Antiviral medications only shorten the duration of illness by one day and are only indicated for hospitalized patients or those with severe underlying diseases.

"It's still not too late to get the vaccine," says Dr. Band. "Also, if you are ill, it is best to stay away from others until your fever has resolved and your cough is under control so you don't infect others."

Seasonal flu symptoms include fever, sore throat, cough, body aches, headaches, chills and fatigue.

For more information about the seasonal flu, go to cdc.gov/flu.

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