The widespread flu outbreak throughout Arizona apparently hasn’t hit the West Valley.

Health officials say visits to area hospitals this year due to the spread of the flu have been typical as in years past and that they have only seen a handful of patients each week seeking treatment for the airborne illness.

Cindy Hammond, an infection preventionist at Banner Del E. Webb Medical Center in Sun City West, said the hospital has seen a “slight increase” of about four to six patients per day in the emergency department since Christmas, but not an increase in the last few weeks.

Hammond said Del Webb has been averaging about one to two lab-confirmed cases of the flu per week since Christmas.

At Banner Boswell Medical Center in Sun City, the hospital’s infection prevention department has also seen an increase in the number of influenza cultures from both the emergency department and inpatient units compared to previous months.

January, February and March, which predominately feature cooler weather, are the months with the best chance to contract the flu.

Widespread flu activity is being reported in Mohave County and around Arizona.

The Arizona Department of Health Services says widespread activity means several laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu have been reported in three or more regions of the state. Arizona is split into four regions.

The widespread activity reported in Mohave County means every major metropolitan area in the county has reported several cases of the virus. About 3,300 flu cases have been reported in Arizona for the season so far – and 34 cases were in Mohave County, according to the ADHS.

The agency says this year’s strains seem to be hitting mainly people in the age range of 19 to 49.

During the past week, there have been 10 laboratory-confirmed cases at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in Glendale and an estimated 30 cases the week prior, said Mandeep Rai, the hospital’s medical director of infection prevention and control.

Rai and Hammond said hospital visitations due to the flu have been from people of all ages, particularly children and the elderly, which are the demographics each hospital serves.

In addition to the flu, Rai said respiratory syncytial virus, which causes infection of the lungs and breathing passages and is a major cause of respiratory illness in young children, has also been trending downward recently at Banner Thunderbird after numerous incidents had surfaced throughout January.

“It seems to be leveling off and stabilizing,” Rai said of the flu and RSV.

While hospital officials have been treating those suffering from the flu or experiencing the onset of symptoms, Hammond explained the Sun City West hospital could be seeing many more if not for the influx of area outpatient clinics and over-the-counter medicine many use to fight the virus.

The 2010-11 flu season is ongoing, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend vaccination for everyone 6 months and older this season.

CDC officials also recommend rapid flu treatment with antiviral drugs for people at high risk of serious flu complications, including young children; pregnant women; people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease; and people 65 years and older.


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