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Illness figures underreported in Berkeley County

January 15, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Dozens of health care providers in Berkeley County are failing to provide the county’s health department with reports on numbers of flu cases and other illnesses they are handling each week, which is required by state law.

Berkeley County Health Department Nurse Director Vickie Greenfield told Board of Health members who met Tuesday that a handful of the county’s providers reported 160 cases of influenza-like illnesses and 204 cases of upper-respiratory infections from Jan. 5 to 11.

Greenfield told board members that City Hospital, Shenandoah Community Health Center, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, MedExpress Urgent Care and Martinsburg physician Ernesto H. Agbayani routinely comply with the state reporting requirement.

She said one medical center is “hit or miss” with submitting the reports, but other providers are not responding. Greenfield estimated there are probably 100 or more health care providers in the county.

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After Tuesday’s meeting, Greenfield said one pediatrician told her she wasn’t going to provide the number of cases for flu, chickenpox and several other specified illnesses that are being tracked by the health department.

Greenfield said state law does not provide a penalty to those who do not comply with the reporting requirement.

Greenfield and Bill Kearns, administrator of the county health department, said health care providers have been notified that they are to file the reports.

Kearns said tracking the flu and other illnesses helps show trends and possible outbreaks.

Given the relatively few providers that are providing the information, Greenfield said the number of cases of flu and respiratory infections compiled last week is somewhat alarming.

Last week, health officials said they tallied 184 cases of influenza-like illnesses in December from the health care providers that shared the information and a total of 100 cases from January to November last year.

“This is probably the most flu I’ve seen,” said Greenfield of her seventh flu season with the health department.

In her report to the board Tuesday, Greenfield said the Veterans Affairs Medical Center documented a flu outbreak among nine patients, all of whom had received a flu shot.

While the outbreak shows vaccination doesn’t fully protect someone from getting the flu, Greenfield noted the severity of illness among those who haven’t received a flu shot still has been greater.

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