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Local Flu Cases On The Rise: Doctors Say Holiday Health ‘All About Proactive Prevention’


urgentHUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Local walk-in or ‘doc-in-the-box’ clinics are boasting full parking lots and a steady stream of sick clients.

“I’ve actually been doing outpatient care for a very long time,” says Dr. Brendella Montgomery, resident physician at the Urgent Medcare Clinic on Shields Road in Huntsville, “and I think that this is the first year that I have seen in excess of 10 or more cases a day.”

The culprit, says Montgomery? The flu. She says the high number of cases will definitely increase wait times at the clinic because of the diagnostics that must be completed to properly diagnose and treat a flu patient.

But Montgomery says in addition to acting quickly, there are some things you can do at home to help keep other friends and family members safe during illness.

"Not necessarily a strict quarantine," says Montgomery, "but some way of making sure you don't have that person in the midst of everybody while they are having the most of their symptoms."

Walk-in-clinics, naturally, strive to lessen patient wait times as much as possible. You may have to be patient for the convenience of urgent care clinics, but Montgomery says getting treated as soon as possible is worth the wait.

"No one likes to wait," admits Montgomery.  "The flu medication, though, is actually going to be more effective the first 24 to 48 hours of symptoms - I would say to patients, don't be discouraged by the wait times."

Despite crowds, chilly weather, and sniffly passengers, catching a cab or a flight this holiday season doesn’t have to lead to catching a cold.

Crowded malls and terminals, tight airplane cabins, jam-packed buses or even just a full house -- the holidays certainly bring us all much closer together.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s travel health decision as well as infectious disease specialists right here in Huntsville say staying healthy among crowds during the peak holiday travel season means going back to the basics.

“Those who don’t wash their hands or who partially wash their hands show a significant amount of bacteria that can be really infectious and problematic to those who have low immunity,” says Dr. Ali Hassoun with the Alabama Infectious Disease Center at Huntsville Hospital.

Hassoun says while no method will be 100% effective, staying healthy during the holiday hustle and bustle is all about prevention.

“In a big gathering, for example, preparation of food is really important because we have seen outbreaks and sometimes contamination when certain types of food have not been washed well – and that can include vegetables but also can include meat as well,” reminds Hassoun.

He adds amid large gatherings flu and other respiratory infections can rear their ugly heads with potentially dire outcomes as well.

“When people have bronchitis or sinus infection or upper-respiratory infection – these are most commonly related to viruses, not necessarily the flu; and a lot of these again are related to how careful you are,” Hassoun warns. “If you are sick it’s probably best to avoid that big gathering.”

Hassoun says he is also a big proponent of seeking treatment as soon as possible rather than waiting to see a doctor especially if you have fever and worsening symptoms.

For some, the dinner table is the least of their worries as many stay moving and traveling throughout the last two months of the year.

Staying hydrated throughout your travels can also help keep sickness away. Try to balance your holiday cheer with a little H2O.

It’s also important to get plenty of rest, even during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

Click here to learn of common misconceptions about seasonal flu and flu vaccines.

Filed in: Huntsville

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