Butler County is seeing a spike in flu cases. Here’s what to do.

The flu has taken flight in Butler County since late December. And it has been soaring this week.

From Sunday through Thursday, 73 new cases of flu were reported. That’s up from 57 last week, 35 during Christmas week, and nine the week before that, according to the Butler County Health Department.

“This week is only a partial week, so the numbers will go up a bit by the end of the week, probably,” said Jenny Bailer, the county health commissioner. Those numbers include illnesses across the county, including Hamilton and Middletown.

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All of Thursday’s cases may not be included, because, “hospitals are being hit pretty hard today, from what I hear, so they may be behind in faxing their numbers over to us,” Bailer said. “It is flu season right now, so we expect to see an increase in the number of cases around December, January and slightly into February.”

So far, 190 flu illnesses have been reported since the week of Oct. 8.

“We have two nursing homes that we have been notified have initiated precautions,” she said, noting there may be more. She did not know which facilities were involved.

Nursing homes and hospitals typically take steps to protect residents by having visitors wear masks, if they allow visitors in at all.

Residents who test positive for the flu should be isolated in their rooms, and barred from community activities, until they are fever-free for 24 hours.

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If people are sick, they need to stay in their rooms until they’re fever-free for 24 hours. Visitors should wear masks if they visit a nursing home while sick.

Better than that, Bailer said, “Our advice is if you’re ill, don’t go to a nursing home.”

Here are symptoms for the flu, according to Bailer:

Sufferers usually have a fever.

Usually, there are cough and respiratory symptoms.

People usually experience an achy-all-over feeling that some describe as “being hit by a train.”

It usually does not involve gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea and vomiting.

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Here are flu-prevention tips from Butler County health officials:

Get a flu shot, the top health officials in Hamilton, Middletown and Butler County all emphasize. While it's true the flu vaccine isn't as effective as in many years, it still can help you, possibly by minimizing your symptoms. It's not too late to get one, they all said.

"Our main message to the public is to stay home if they feel sick," Bailer said.

"If they think they may have the flu, they should call the doctor as soon as possible and see if they can get a prescription for Tamiflu, an anti-viral (medicine). It can potentially decrease the severity and length of an illness."

She added: “There’s not a shortage of Tamiflu this year. Some years there is a shortage.”

Anyone with fever should remain home until they've been fever-free for 24 hours.

"Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands," recommends Kay Farrar, Hamilton's health director.

"If somebody's coughing, it's airborne,"Farrar said, "so people should cough into their sleeve, and it's a good time not to be shaking hands, so do a fist bump or something."

"I always tell people the best thing they can do is stay healthy," said Middletown Health Commissioner Jackie Phillips. "Sleep good, eat good, hydrate yourself, stay healthy, and stay away from sick people."

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