Testing everyday items for the flu - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Testing everyday items for the flu

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

It's being reported as the earliest flu season in recent years. It has Le Bonheur Children's Hospital working overtime: More than 250 patients each day in the last three days visited the hospital.

"We test a lot, somewhere around 50 to 60 a day and we see three to four influenza positive out of those 50 to 60," says Dr. Anami Patel, Technical Director of Le Bonheur's Molecular Diagnostic Lab.

FOX13 News sent samples from a kid's toy, gas pump, cell phone, computer keyboard and restaurant salt shaker to see if these items are harvesting bacteria and the flu virus. They all came back negative, but Patel says that does not mean items you touch daily do not have bacteria and flu germs on them.

MORE: CDC says Mid-South, South hard hit by flu
MORE: Le Bonheur offers tips to avoid the flu
MORE: Flu vaccines available for uninsured TN children

"If we think about the biology of this virus, if the patient is infected spreading it around in the community the life cycle of the virus is pretty short," says Patel, "The first most thing we all should be aware of is hand hygiene, and if we are sneezing or coughing we should be taking care of just regular precautions. "

The flu is commonly transferred by people touching a surface and then their face, according to Dr. John Devincenzo, Clinical Director of the Virology Lab and Microbiology Lab at Le Bonheur. He says changing behaviors like touching your face will help prevent the flu.

Devincenzo also says the flu vaccine is another primary way to prevent the flu, adding that children should be first to be immunized.

"Children are what we call your ‘super spreaders,' and when you vaccinate a whole group of children in a community, even if you don't vaccinate the elderly that much but you vaccinate all the children in the community, it turns out that flu is less severe in that community," says Devincenzo.

If you already have the flu, Devincenzo recommends the following:

  • Immediately go to the doctor to have them prescribe an anti-viral, especially Tamiflu
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Avoid contact with other people

Le Bonheur helps the Center for Disease Control track the cases of flu in Memphis with their own data, which is available on their Clinical Care Resources webpage.

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