The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says flu season officially starts in October and lasts through March. However, nurses at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital (OHRH) say they see the flu all year-long, and several cases in Owensboro have already been identified with three admissions to OHRH.
The flu is an infectious virus that leads to potentially dangerous short and long-term complications. While short-term flu symptoms consist of coughing, aching, fatigue and fever, it can also lead to pneumonia, which is the leading cause of sepsis. Attacking the bloodstream, sepsis affects various parts of the body, including the brain.
According to OHRH nurses, Kentucky was fifth in the nation for sepsis-related mortality rates in 2016. With last year’s (2017-2018) season being the highest flu season on record for Daviess County and Owensboro, the risk for developing sepsis was greater than ever.
According to Laura Gillim, RN and Infection Preventionist at OHRH, flu to pneumonia to sepsis is a relatively fast-happening and unforeseen process, but the first step to prevention is getting your flu shot.
“There’s a lot of myths about the flu shot, but it doesn’t give you the flu,” Gillim said. “The best time to get it is before the end of October. Even if it’s the end of October, it’s not too late to get it.”
Gillim added that it takes two weeks for the flu vaccine to be effective.
“If in that two-week period you got the flu, you were already going to get it,” Gillim said.
Regardless, Gillim says, those who get the flu shot are at a much lower risk of getting the flu.
Because a side effect of the flu is pneumonia, sepsis is something medical professionals are concerned about. According to Megan Riley, RN and Emergency Department (ED) Clinical Educator, sepsis is the leading cause of death in hospitals nationwide.
“It deprives the organs and brain of oxygen, even the lungs,” Riley says. “There’s not as much urine output because the kidneys are shutting down.”
Blakely McDaniel, RN/BSN and Emergency Department Clinical Educator says nurses in the ED don’t take sepsis lightly when they see it.
“We’re taking it as seriously as strokes and heart attacks,” McDaniel said.