WESTBROOK, Minnesota (STPNS) --     Special  —  Every year during the winter there is a significant out break of the influenza around the country. This year the outbreak has been much earlier and much more severe than in the past few years. In some areas emergency rooms are swamped with sometimes dozens of patients coming in.  

    The common cold and flu are caused by different viruses but can have similar symptoms.

    Cold symptoms usually include stuffy or runny nose, sore throat and sneezing. Fever, chills, and body aches are unusual, but if they occur they are mild.

    Flu symptoms usually include fever, chills, headaches, and moderate to severe body aches. These symptoms usually come on rapidly within a few hours.

    People with colds or mild cases of the flu should get plenty  of rest and fluids. Those with more severe symptoms, such as high fever or difficult breathing should see a doctor right away.

    Westbrook Sanford Nurse Sherrie Olson said “it has been quite busy and we have had more positives than in the past couple years, and it has started earlier than usual.”

    Kelly Hoffman Nurse Practitioner at Sanford also said it has been busier than normal with positives on both type A and type B flu strains. However quite a few people with flu like symptoms coming in have tested negative for flu.

    “We have had a lot of people coming in for the flu shot, but we would prefer that they be proactive because it takes about two weeks to build up antibodies against the flu,” Hoffman said. They have had no admissions and fortunately no flu related deaths locally.

    Hoffman advises people to get a flu shot and wash their hands frequently, as the best flu prevention.

    The Good Samaritan Westbrook Nursing Home is in visitor lock down, according to administrator Daren Rife. He said, “we have had a number of our residents with flu symptoms, so at the recommendation of medical director Thomas Koehnan and Dr. Andy Kopperud we decided to close the center to all visitors until the symptoms subside.”

    “If the symptoms subside the center could be open again by the end of this week. We will have to leave it up to our medical personnel to decide. Hopefully it is getting better and we will be able to open soon,” said Rife.

    At the Walnut Grove Elementary School, principal Paul Olson said they have not been affected too much by the flu. Our kids are pretty hardy, I think giving our kids more healthy snacks and breakfast helps keep them healthy. However they have had two or three kids  a day not showing up due to flu. Olson felt the flu was running a typical course.

    At the high school things are a bit worse but not much different than past years according to school secretary Karen Kolar. “We have had about five or six kids absent daily, also we have had a couple staff out,” said Kolar. But most of those have been out only a couple of days.