Area flu cases on rise

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff Writer

The number of patients being treated for flu-like symptoms has almost doubled in recent weeks, according to area health officials.

In response, the New Mexico Department of Health has organized several flu shot clinics, according to a press release.

“We’ve seen a big increase … (with patients ranging) from 6 months old to 90,” said Darlene Jenkins, a family nurse practitioner with NM Quickcare.

Primarily the flu-like cases are viral and therefore not treatable with antibiotics, Jenkins said.

Most patients are sent home with instructions to take in plenty of fluids, manage fevers and aches with over-the-counter pain medication, and to follow light diets, she said.

Allergy issues too have risen in the last two weeks, she said, and many of the cases are progressing to sinusitis, treatable by antibiotics.

Most of the cases run their course, with only about 15 percent resulting in complications such pneumonia and other more severe diagnoses, she said.

Jenkins said the clinic is seeing an average of 70 patients per day while normal traffic for the urgent-care facility is around 40 a day.

“We’re really hoping that it calms down,” she said. “There was a chorus in church behind me (this week),” she said. “One would cough the other would sneeze and the other would snort.”

Responsible for a demographic considered highly susceptible to flu-like illness, Teri Sands, health services director at the Senior Citizens Residence Center, said residents have for the most part avoided the viruses circulating the area.

“We’ve been very lucky so far,” she said.

Tersa Bonifant, whose job is to track flu and other issues at Roosevelt General Hospital, said emergency room visits for flu-like symptoms have been steady in recent weeks but not excessive. Between 20 and 30 people have come in weekly experiencing flu-like symptoms, she said.

“Usually in the springtime, you see a little bit of a rise,” Bonifant said.

Fast facts
Flu shot clinics offered by the New Mexico Department of Health:

• 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday at the Clovis City Hall Assembly Room, 321 Connelly St.

• 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Portales Fire Station, 301 South Ave. C

• For information, call the toll-free 24-hour Nurse Advice New Mexico line: (877) 725-2552

— Source: New Mexico Department of Health