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Photo: RomarioIen/Getty Images/iStockphoto, License: N/A, Created: 2016:11:22 15:39:00

Stop the infection! Healthy man showing gesture “stop”. Photo of man wear protective mask against infectious diseases and flu. Health care concept.

by Phil Yacuboski

At their Pennsylvania offices in Wyoming County, Southwestern Energy is like many other businesses in our area — dealing with the flu that has hit just about everywhere.

“This is a particularly severe flu season,” said Mike Narcavage, community relations manager for Southwestern Energy in Tunkhannock. “We’re taking precautions by ramping up cleaning protocols.  Fortunately to date, we haven’t seen a significant increase in sick days in NEPA.”

He said those precautions include a free flu shot, not just to their Pennsylvania employees at the natural gas company, but throughout the country. To their 100 employees in Tunkhannock, they are often reminded during safety meetings about preventing the flu.

It has been a particularly bad flu season across the Commonwealth. During the week of February 11, the flu killed 28 people, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The majority of those who died are 65 years of age and older.

“What we’ve been doing is swabbing patients or getting testing for the flu and if treatments are applicable in their situation, we treat them antivirals like Tamiflu,” said Dr. Michael Brown, a family practitioner with Commonwealth Health in Tunkhannock. “We’ve seen a lot of cases of the flu this season.”

In Pennsylvania, the southeast region of the state continues to be the hardest hit and the state considers the flu to be ‘widespread.’

Flu season typically runs from October until May, according to the state health department.

Dr. Brown said business owners need to be mindful of how quickly the flu spreads and how it can rapidly affect everyone in the office. He also said holding flu shot clinics to get as many people vaccinated is a good idea.

“If someone comes in with the flu, we give them a mask,” he said. “It’s not only to protect us, but to protect other people in the waiting room.”

He also said they practice good hand hygiene and clean the office frequently to minimize any germs.

With nearly 3,000 students on campus at Misericordia University, the school has put a number of protocols in place to stop the spread of the flu. So far this school year, they’ve seen about 20 confirmed cases.

“The Dean of Students Office works with the students who have been diagnosed with an illness and encourages them to go home if they are a residential student. Office personnel also work with the roommates to mitigate the spread of the illness through the use of hand sanitizer, cleaning and sanitizing the dorm room and more,” said Paul Krzwyicki, spokesman Misericordia University.

Faculty are also instructed to excuse students from classes and are allowing them to make-up work should they get sick.

The Diocese of Scranton recently instructed parishoners to skip the handshake at the sign of peace. In addition, wine is not shared at Masses and those giving out Holy Communion are encouraged to use good hygiene.

Regardless of the flu outbreak, Dr. Brown recommends a flu shot.

“Even though the flu shot may not be exact for the flu strains that are going around, studies have shown that getting a flu shot may control those symptoms,” he said. “You still may get the flu, but the severity would be less than if you hadn’t gotten the flu shot.”

“The best way to protect yourself from getting the flu is to get a flu shot,” said Dr. Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania’s Acting Health Secretary and Physician General.