By Danielle Dodder
The littlest members of the community are lining up for repeated hand washing throughout their school day and local pharmacies are running out of the flu vaccine. As visitors from all over arrive for warm beaches, so does the seasonal germ influx. Wash your hands and cover your nose; flu season is alive and well on Marco.
Dr. Joe Vickaryous practices family medicine at the Marco Island Medical Center. He observes, “This season on Marco has seen unusually high numbers of flu cases in our practice.” Vickaryous adds that his cases span all age ranges and the symptoms manifest as everything from extreme fatigue to a cough-cold. He recommends getting tested early on through a nasal Influenza test so symptoms can be treated quickly with antiviral medication. Complications from the flu include: bacterial pneumonia, ear or sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of existing health conditions. “Seasonal flu activity usually peaks in January.” But, he adds that it can also occur as late as May.
Mary Meyer is a local pharmacist who wishes more people would observe the old adage of an ounce of prevention beating a pound of cure. “The flu season arrived here much earlier than expected. We’ve had a lot of people come in who’ve never gotten a flu shot before.” Theoretically, this would be a good thing, however, Meyer points out: “The best time to get the flu shot is really October or November, before the flu season begins.” She explains that the effects of the shot will last for the season but immunity from the flu takes a few weeks to kick in. “I’ve had people come in to get the shot the day before they travel somewhere to prevent getting sick, but unfortunately that isn’t really what it’s meant to do.” She has seen pharmacies run short of vaccines when demand runs high. “They only manufacture so much, and when it’s gone, it’s gone.”
The students in Mabel Peña’s 5th grade class at Tommie Barfield Elementary are getting an education in the science of viruses out of this flu season. She’s lead three discussion groups around the flu. “We’ve talked about the history of the flu virus, its effects and the flu vaccine.” Peña and the rest of the TBE teachers are busy pushing hand washing and hand sanitizer in an effort to keep their students healthy in the classroom. “Every day, numerous times throughout our day, we use hand sanitizer to kill the germs that may be lurking on our hands. The students actively wash and sanitize between their fingers because they have learned that is where some germs hide,” says Cathy Schulman, a first grade teacher on vigilant germ patrol.
“My favorite, which I am almost compulsive about, are light switches!” Mario Guzman is the facilities manager at Tommie Barfield, and during flu season, he and his crew are on double clean-up duty. “During flu season and other outbreaks, custodians double and triple the frequency in which certain areas are disinfected: desks, tables, chairs, computer keyboards…and during lunch periods table tops… these are all areas where most microbial transfer takes place.”
For those of us not fortunate enough to have a Guzman crew at our disposal, there’s always Lysol wipes, and words of hope from Dr. Vickaryous: “Do not underestimate the power of your own immune system. Even when feeling fatigued, a five-minute walk can stimulate your immune system.”
In the meantime, there’s always the good advice handed down from the 1st graders: “The flu can go to other people, if you are close by them, you want to keep washing your hands!”