Flu cases on the rise in Bay Area late in season

- It got off to a slow start, but the 2016 flu season is hitting hard. The Florida Department of Health reports a rise in flu cases this week, especially among children.

In Bradenton, Manatee Memorial Hospital had a record number of patients visiting its emergency room with flu-like symptoms on Monday, according to a local newspaper.

Hospital officials say 310 patients stopped by the ER, the most doctors have seen in a single day.

'Tampa General Hospital has not been hit as hard, however, the hospital is prepared for the worst, with several cases of flu shots on standby.

"Since January 1, we've had about 110 flu cases here within the hospital," said Nancy Epps, a certified RN with TGH. "We didn't have many flu cases all October, November or December. In January, a few cases were trickling in, but all of a sudden now in February, we are seeing a high rise in our flu numbers."

The flu season typically reaches its peak in February and can last until May.

According to the CDC, the most common strain of the virus spreading around the country this year is a H1N1.

"It's the strain from 2009," said Epps. "That's when healthy young adults were getting sick and having complications."

Unlike previous years, when there was no vaccine for H1N1, Epps says hospitals are better equipped to handle the virus.

"The good news is the flu vaccine is a good match, because that strain is in the flu vaccination," explained Epps.

With several months remaining in the flu season, doctors are encouraging people to get their flu shots. Other ways to fight the virus including frequent hand washing and reminding others around you to practice good "respiratory etiquette," such as coughing into the elbows instead of the hands to avoid spreading germs.

Anyone experiencing flu symptoms, such as a fever, coughing, fatigue and body aches is encourage to see a doctor. It typically takes 10-14 days to fully recover from the flu, according to medical experts.

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