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LBJ sees influx of flu patients at ER — especially young and elderly

Outbreak often has same symptoms as COVID, DoH says

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — In a July 28 health advisory, the Health Department announced that American Samoa, “is currently experiencing an outbreak of the flu which can present similarly to COVID-19 symptoms.”

The advisory comes on the heels of reports from LBJ Medical Center where nurses told Samoa News about the high number of residents showing up at the Emergency Room with symptoms of the flu — especially young children and the elderly — in the past several days.

Two residents also told Samoa News about showing up at the ER and there were “so many people” there, hoping to see a doctor. And that there was a long wait to be checked and evaluated by a physician.

“Very concerning if this flu continues when our children returning to the new school year later this month,” said one mother, who recently visited the ER with her children who attend one of the local private schools, which begins their new school year later this month.

Others are concerned with the spread of the flu, in crowded places such as stores and other public facilities, where some people have opted to refuse to wear masks and social distance despite COVID-19 still present in the territory.

In the advisory, DoH explained that symptoms of the “influenza or flu” includes sudden onset of fever or feeling feverish/ chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches and fatigue. DoH said that some people may face vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

According to the advisory, symptoms usually last three-to-seven days — although coughing can linger much longer. Additionally, influenza can cause severe illness or death, especially for people at high risk — for example: children under 5, people with chronic conditions, pregnant women, the immune-compromised, adults who are 65-years and older, and healthcare workers due to constant exposure.

“The flu virus is spread easily in crowded areas, such as schools and congested workplaces,” the advisory said, noting that infected droplets from someone who coughs or sneezes can carry and spread the flu virus up to 3 feet in distance to other people who are near by.

Additionally, the flu virus can also be spread by contaminated hands. “To prevent the spread of the virus,” DoH advises the public to “practice the same preventive measures as advised for COVID-19 — wear a mask when in crowded places, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing, discard the tissue properly, wash hands with soap and water regularly or stay home and isolate from others until symptoms subside.”

Treatment if a person experience flu-like symptoms, according to the advisory, “it is best to isolate at home to minimize infecting others. Monitor your fever and take fever reducing medicine if/ when necessary.”

DoH emphasized:: “Do not use aspiring for children and teenagers as it can lead to other serious complications. Over-the-counter cough and cold medications are not recommended for children under age 4 unless directed by a healthcare provider.”

DoH advises the public to drink plenty of fluids and eat a balanced diet. Avoid tobacco and alcohol use. Gargle with warm saltwater or lozenges for sore throat to provide some relief. And if symptoms become severe, seek medical attention immediately.

Other natural measures to consider: Vitamin C, Vitamin D, steam baths, honey, ginger, lemons, garlic and onions, according to the health advisory. For more information call DoH at 219.

And some residents have already offered their own home-made remedies including honey and ginger —  to counter the flu for family members and friends.