Upcoming inauguration bring concerns of rising flu cases in DC - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

Upcoming inauguration bring concerns of rising flu cases in DC

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WASHINGTON -

Just five days until President Barack Obama's second inauguration and it's not just the police and party planners gearing up for the big occasion. Public health officials are bracing for the possibility that the number of flu cases could rise in D.C.

Tens of thousands of our fellow Americans are coming to the nation's capital for next Monday's Presidential Inauguration. They will be close together sharing things like public toilets, touching door handles and Metro escalator handrails, right in the middle of flu season.

"You catch the flu from other people so they're the ones carrying the virus and leaving it places for me to pick up," says Kari Thyne, who works in the District.

Chuck Watson says he was sick over New Year's.

"It was actually really bad," he says. "I had chills. I couldn't really eat for a few days."

Just imagine if you're charged with trying to prevent a public health crisis.

"We know that it comes every year," says Dr. Bruno Petinaux of the George Washington University Medical Center. "Every fall, every winter time. We know that the flu is coming. And we're prepared for it."

Dr. Petinaux specializes in emergency medicine and says the hospital has bolstered its emergency department staffing and is constantly cleaning. He says they have a lot of practice.

"In the District of Columbia, we are accustomed to seeing large crowds come to visit," he says. "And just on a regular business day, certainly the population of the District, especially in the downtown area, surges."

The most common flu virus right now is an influenza A virus that physicians say tends to be a little more serious. It can easily spread, says Dr. Cathleen Clancy, who also works in the ER at GWUMC.

"You either have to breathe it in from somebody nearby who has coughed or you need to touch something that someone has very, very recently touched because flu virus doesn't live in the environment for very long," Dr. Clancy explains.

She says those attending the inaugural balls will be more at risk, being indoors, than those going to the swearing-in ceremony or watching the parade.

Our experts say stay healthy by getting a flu shot, washing your hands often and staying well-rested.

And if you're sick, they say stay home.


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