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Flu is in the news

Erin Prissel, MD

Erin Prissel, MD

By Dr. Erin Prissel

Most people who live in this valley love winter and the multiple outdoor opportunities that are available following an epic snow storm. We wake up every morning, check the weather, and adjust our day if possible. Of course, Mother Nature is not predictable. Just as it has been challenging to predict weather patterns, it has been equally challenging to predict the drift and shift of the influenza virus. This flu season is approaching numbers seen during the 2009 pandemic. At the time this article was written, the proportion of influenza deaths is above the epidemic threshold for week 2 in the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) Mortality Surveillance System. We are all at risk for infection. The greatest risk falls on our children, immunocompromised, and folks over the age 65. As of now, there are a reported 53 pediatric deaths related to influenza.

We have to make choices every day about our health and wellness — from the food we eat to the medications and supplements we take. One thing remains clear and unified — we all want what’s best for our families. Similarly, it is important to know the facts about vaccinations and influenza in order to make informed decisions.

Flu Facts

  • The flu is a contagious virus effecting the respiratory system. It often presents like a respiratory infection but can also present with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • You can spread the virus up to 6 ft away with a good cough or sneeze.
  • Symptoms start 1-4 days after being infected with the virus. You can spread the virus from day 1 prior to showing symptoms up to about 7 days after symptoms develop. That means you can spread the infection even without having symptoms. This is why hand hygiene is so important.
  • Some people can be infected and have no symptoms but they can still spread the virus.
  • Purchases of over-the-counter flu medications generally cost a lot more than getting a flu shot, especially if the immunization is covered by insurance. In addition, the over the counter flu medications only target symptoms. You body must fight the virus.
  • Vaccinations don’t always “match” the virus because scientists have to guess which strain(s) will be prevalent in the upcoming year.
  • Vaccines don’t offer 100 percent protection, and there have been occasions when their effectiveness turned out to be less than 10 percent. This is because the virus changes its surface proteins to survive and persist in our environment.
  • The vaccine is not made of a live virus. You don’t catch influenza from the vaccine. It takes two weeks for the vaccine to stimulate an immune response in your body that is protective against the virus. If you develop a cold or influenza around the time you received the vaccine, you were likely already infected.
  • If you catch the flu but had a flu shot, your illness may be less severe than if you hadn’t received the vaccination because your immune system is ready for it.
  • People of all ages die each year from flu complications but it is especially dangerous for young children and seniors.
  • People miss work, kids miss school, and people are hospitalized due to flu.
  • The illness can make you very sick even if you are otherwise healthy.
  • Hospitalizations and missed work cost quite a bit more than flu shots.
  • Death from influenza is potentially preventable.
  • There is no cure for influenza. If you are infected, your body must fight the illness.
  • Tamilfu is a medication that prevents the virus from replicating in your body and allows your immune system a chance to work faster. It does not cure the virus.
  • Antibiotics do not treat influenza.

Driggs, Victor and Cache Clinics are offering the quadrivalent and high-dose formulation of the vaccine. The quad includes an additional B-strain vaccine. Trivalent shots do not include additional B-strain protection. If this difference concerns you, make sure you ask what type of shot is available. Many non-medical businesses may offer only the trivalent dosage.

High-dosage vaccines as recommended for people over the age of 65 or with compromised immune systems.

No appointment is necessary to get a flu shot at any of our clinics. Remember that Cache Clinic does not bill insurance, and if you come to Cache specifically for a shot, you won’t be charged an additional exam fee unless you need and ask for an additional exam.

Dr. Erin Prissel specializes in Family Practice medicine. She’s accepting new patients at Driggs Clinic.
To learn more about seasonal influenza: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/flushot.htm

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County awards ambulance service to fire district

After months of discussions, proposals and counter proposals, Teton County has decided to make the Teton County Fire Protection District the sole provider of ambulance service in the county.

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Decisions and consequences

Keith Gnagey

Keith Gnagey, TVHC CEO

Within hours of the 2-1 vote by our county commissioners to vacate the current ambulance service contract held by TVHC and give this service to the Teton County Fire Protection District, 20 of our EMS employees received calls from hospital leadership telling them their employment would be ending. Twenty employees and their families are now uncertain about their careers and livelihoods.

We’re sorry. We’re sad. We believe we gave our county leaders every supportable document, testimonial, report and statistic available to show that the service provided by our EMS crew, medical staff and nurses — our team — was clearly the best choice at the best cost for our residents and tourists. And then on Monday, May 16, we lost a service we’ve been providing contractually for 13 years; a service that began with a volunteer force in 1975.

From 1939 to 1975, people in dire emergencies had to find their own way to Teton Valley Hospital. One physician used his station wagon to pick up people and bring them in. Bob Bean, the local funeral director, brought patients to the hospital in his hearse! We have a long and proud history of emergency volunteers and later, paid professionals, who built this service to a high-level paramedic-certified department. These people immersed themselves into the clinical team that’s on hand 24/7 to care for you on what could be the worst day of your life.
Taxpayers voted the Ambulance Service District into existence over a decade ago. On Monday, two people voted to terminate the existing contract, give all operations to the fire district, and wind down the Ambulance Service District. Instead of working together to provide ambulance service in the county, we are now going to have one provider, the fire department. At TVHC, we have expressed, time after time, a desire to forge a true partnership with Fire only to be rebuffed time after time regardless of the greater good that such a partnership could have brought to our community.

To all of our EMS employees and to those in the past who served or supported Teton Valley Ambulance, we give our deepest regards and appreciation. We’re sorry we weren’t able to continue your legacy. We’re sorry that we have families now in turmoil as they try to move ahead with their lives. We’ll continue to place our focus exactly where it should be: on caring for our patients, their families and our community.

We’ll continue to make available all documentation, letters, etc. that we offered to our county commissioners and community throughout this process. Anyone may access these here.

This article appeared in the opinion section of the Teton Valley News.

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