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Flu lays low locally

February 08, 1998|By TERRY TALBERT

Flu lays low locally

With the flu season more than half over, it appears Washington County residents may escape this year's bug relatively unscathed.

The influenza season extends from December through February, and sometimes into March, according to Washington County Health Officer Dr. Robert Parker.

School absenteeism is used as a measure of the severity of the flu season. Local schools report to the county health department when their absentee rates due to illness reach 10 percent, Parker said.

"This year in December, no schools reported absenteeism over 10 percent. There were 10 (schools reporting) in December a year ago," he said.

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"This January we had two schools report 10 percent absenteeism due to intestinal flu. This February we had one. There were four during the same period last year," according to Parker.

Symptoms in the school cases reported this January and February sounded more "flu-like" than they did the real thing, Parker said.

Parker said county figures reflect the progress of the flu season nationally, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control.

"The U.S. as a whole had less cases in December (1997) than last season," he said. "This January statistics show it was picking up across the country, but still not a whole lot worse than last January."

Parker said he doesn't know for sure, but hopes the county's stepped-up fall immunization program had something to do with the benign nature of this year's flu attack.

"At the health department, we were able to increase our coverage by at least 25 percent," Parker said. "Last season we immunized about 1,000. This past fall, we immunized 4,904. From information we've received from some private practices and nursing homes, altogether there were 10,176 immunizations in the county last fall."

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