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'Tis the cold season - Achoo!

January 08, 2001

'Tis the cold season - Achoo!



By MARLO BARNHART / Staff Writer


Winter is normally the season for colds at area hospitals and this year's is no exception.

"The biggest problem we're seeing is pneumonia, affecting all ages," said Jenny Divelbliss, a nursing supervisor at Washington County Hospital in Hagerstown.

Divelbliss estimated that 25 percent of the hospital's 250 or so patients Saturday are suffering from ailments relating to pneumonia or respiratory illnesses.

"There are a lot of new strains of pneumonia that are resistant to antibiotics," Divelbliss said.

Dr. Mike Connor, a physician at Chambersburg (Pa.) Hospital, said new strains of pneumonia are not a major problem there.

"Pneumonia cases are normal for this time of year," Connor said.

Overall, the number of patients at the hospital is up because of those pneumonia patients and others who are showing up complaining of flu-like symptoms.

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"We've been testing for influenza and the tests have been coming up negative," Connor said.

Mary Gay Richard, nursing supervisor at City Hospital in Martinsburg, said the number of patients there has fluctuated.

"I came in Saturday morning and we were full and then there were a lot of discharges and we had beds again," Richard said.

Much of the increase is due to respiratory problems and pneumonia, especially some chronic patients, she said.

"One difference this year is we're seeing lots of infants with respiratory problems," Richard said.

The same holds true at Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Ranson, W.Va., said Karen Thompson, a charge nurse there.

"Our census is up, but that is typical for this time of year," Thompson said.

The kinds of patients in the hospital are complaining of upper respiratory ailments. No influenza cases have been reported, just flu-like symptoms, she said.

Therese Blanchon, a Frederick (Md.) Memorial Hospital spokesman, said the number of patients rises and falls daily.

"We are seeing a little rise in flu-like symptoms, but it's nothing unusual for this time of year," Blanchon said.

Throughout the Tri-State area, the arrival of flu vaccine was delayed late last year, forcing some clinics to be canceled and others to be rescheduled.

In Washington County, only seniors, nursing home patients and other high-risk groups were getting the first batches of vaccine which came in early December.

When the rest of the vaccine finally arrived, clinics were hastily set for the first few days of January. More than 9,000 doses are expected to be given in Washington County in anticipation of the flu season, which traditionally peaks in February.

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