Flu trends this year, and what we can do about them
-Dannette Heeth, CEH, IP, NR-Paramedic
Southwest Regional Business Development
Recently I had an appointment at my local nail salon. The technician doing my nails began sneezing, and rather than covering her mouth or sneezing into the crook of her arm, she sneezed on me….several times. A sneeze carrying germs travels about 200 miles an hour!
Influenza is a virus, and all viruses require a host in order to survive. Viruses are passed in the air, typically by a sneeze, but activated viruses can also survive on doorknobs or other high hand contact surfaces for many hours….just waiting until the next live host appears. People in tight quarters such as classrooms, airplane cabins or call centers are at the highest risk of contracting influenza. This year’s H3N2 strain is considered a “drifted” virus because it evolved from a previous season and the 2014-2015 vaccine missed the mark on prevention.
As a person that has one foot in the building services industry, and the other foot in healthcare, I have the advantage of seeing the latest in communicable diseases each Saturday when I work my shift in a Dallas (hospital) emergency department. In previous years, most of the patients diagnosed with influenza were the elderly, very young pediatrics or those with already compromised immune systems, but we began noticing early in this season that the demographics were different.
The influx of flu patients usually starts early December and lasts until mid-spring. When we enjoy a mild winter, we also benefit from a mild flu season. For the 2014-2015 season, many parts of the country had a colder than normal fall, driving people indoors earlier than usual. In Dallas, we had our “first freeze” in mid-October which was when our flu patients began arriving in ER. After several weeks, I noticed a strange trend of almost 100% of our patients were school-aged children, mainly young teens. The chief symptoms that caused them to head to the ER are the extreme body pains and fatigue.
The Centers for Disease Control provides data by surveillance week, and as the chart below shows, overwhelmingly, school-aged through college-aged are being hit the hardest.
What should I do if I get sick? Here’s what the CDC says…
“Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If you get sick with flu symptoms, in most cases, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care.
If, however, you have symptoms of flu and are in a high risk group, or are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your health care provider (doctor, physician’s assistant, etc.).
Certain people are at high risk of serious flu-related complications (including young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions) and this is true both for seasonal flu and novel flu virus infections.
If you are in a high risk group and develop flu symptoms, it’s best for you to contact your doctor. Remind them about your high risk status for flu.
Health care providers will determine whether influenza testing and treatment are needed. Your doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs(www.cdc.gov/flu/antivirals) that can treat the flu. These drugs work better for treatment the sooner they are started.
Do I need to go the emergency room if I am only a little sick?
No. The emergency room should be used for people who are very sick. You should not go to the emergency room if you are only 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 are the EMERGENCY warning signs of flu sickness?
- 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 addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:
- Being unable to eat
- Has trouble breathing
- Has no tears when crying
- Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough”
So when the flu comes calling at your door, don’t panic and stay out of the ER unless you are experiencing the above emergency warning signs. Unfortunately, most ER trips due to mild cases of the flu are wasted time and money since neither antibiotics nor painkillers are prescribed (antibiotics do not work on viruses), and patients pay good money for our advice to take over-the-counter fever reducers and to drink plenty of fluids.
Isolate the sick person from the healthy while they are running a temperature greater than 100 degrees. This means stay home from work or school, and do not go out into the general public.
Save our Schools
Regarding schools, the custodians may be doing the right things, but the classrooms are an 8 hour per day breeding ground and more should be done by the teacher and students. Desks and door handles should be cleaned several times a day with alcohol wipes like we use in the patient rooms, and everyone’s hands should be cleaned with a great frequency.
I can attest that this year’s influenza is hitting school-aged children the hardest. One of the biggest reasons the flu spreads so rapidly is because kids aren’t washing their hands, and the right surfaces aren’t being cleaned.
Make sure everyone keeps their hands washed, cover sneezes, keep high hand contact surfaces disinfected and drink plenty of clear fluids. If we all work together and use common sense, we’ll get through this influenza season just fine.
Varsity Facility Services/Southwest Division
Regional Business Development
During the late 1970’s, Dannette was working in an Arlington, Texas hospital where the Environmental Services Department was outsourced to a janitorial vendor. She became interested in the training and processes required to keep the hospital properly cleaned. On her breaks, she would hang out in the EVS manager’s office to learn everything she could. Several years later, Dannette started a janitorial service, and with her medical background, began seeing ALL buildings as infectious as hospitals. Later in life she married a Flight/Critical Care Paramedic that inspired her to fulfill her dream of being a paramedic as well. She completed EMT-Basic training in 2008, joined MedicOne ambulance company (formerly MedCare), completed paramedic school and licensure in 2010, began the paramedic/RN bridge program, and eventually wound up as a trauma paramedic in a busy ER on the weekends.
In addition to her weekend work as a paramedic, she is involved in business development during the week with the best janitorial service in the world….Varsity Facility Services. Her life is full and busy!
Since starting with Varsity Facility Services in January 2013, doing Regional Business Development for Texas and Arizona, Dannette has already had great success. With her medical background, she was instrumental in obtaining the DaVita Dialysis business (63 locations in Houston); and Mountain Park Health Centers (4 locations) in Arizona.She also played a key role in bringing Varsity’s industry-leading services to Prosperity Bank (Houston); and most recently, State Farm regional offices in Phoenix. She concentrates on locating Fortune 500 companies, medical facilities, universities and national companies that have multiple locations throughout the country who need the level of service that only Varsity is able to provide. She believes in meeting prospective customers face-to-face, and spends at least 60% of her week “in the field” meeting new people and spreading the good news about Varsity to companies that have never heard of us. Her motto is, “The harder I work, the luckier I get!”
In addition to working with Varsity, Dannette is currently working in the medical field as a trauma paramedic on the weekends at Dallas Regional Medical Center Emergency Department.She has also been an American Red Cross (Dallas Chapter) volunteer since 2007 and is on two of their teams: their Medical Disaster Team and their Disaster Action Team for fires/floods for which she is the Team Leader.She worked as a MedicOne Medical Response paramedic for 4 years.She has also taught infection control to nurses at the Texas Hospital Association; hasbeen a speaker at TORCH (Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals); and served on the Public Health Board, City of Grand Prairie from 2010-2012.
As well as her impressive medical experience, Dannette has extensive experience in Facility Management and Janitorial.Before joining Varsity Facility Services, Dannette owned numerous janitorial companies. She has also served as Executive Vice President at AHI Facility Services; and as Director of Medical Treatment Facilities at Aztec Facility Services. She served on the BSCAI Board of Directors from 1955-1998; served on the Proctor & Gamble Advisory Board of Directors from 1995-1998; and was a speaker for Sales & Marketing at the 2002 & 2003 ISSA Conventions.
• University of Texas at Arlington
• Southern Methodist University
• National College of Technical Instruction (Paramedic)
• DCCCD nursing (Phi Theta Kappa)
Other experience and certifications:
• Texas State Paramedic, National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians – Paramedic (NREMT-P)
• Infection Preventionist (IP)
• IICRC carpet cleaning
• FEMA disaster paramedic certified
• Wildlands Firefighter
• Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
• CPR instructor
• Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC)
• International Association of Women in Fire & Emergency Services, 16 Springs Fire Department (New Mexico).
• Disaster Action Team Leader – American Red Cross
• Certified Executive Housekeeper (CEH)
Awards / Honors:
• Won Dallas 100, Inc. 1994 for being one of the fastest growing companies in Dallas.
• 1995 Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce Enterprise of the Year winner
• Published over 50 articles with SERVICES magazine and CONTRACTING PROFITS
• Former Columnist for Grand Prairie Chamber of Commerce, “Who’s Who in Grand Prairie”.
Dannette’s hobbies include playing the classical piano since the age of 3, playing pipe organ, writing hymns and she is currently working on 2 books: From Acne to Estrogen, and Crazy Stories from the ER.
Latest posts by Dannette Heath CEH, IP, Paramedic, EVS Business Development (see all)
- Behind the Scenes: EVS Unsung Heroes - September 12, 2016
- 9-11, The Impact on Emergency Medical Services (EMS) - September 11, 2016
- Norovirus – The Gift That Keeps on Giving … until it’s stopped! - May 9, 2016