Clean Hands Count and You need a Flu Vaccine

According to the CDC, the 2017-2018 flu season was the first to be classified as high severity across all age groups. With activity beginning to increase in November and remaining elevated above the national baseline for 19 weeks through March, it was also one of the longest flu seasons on record.

Cold and flu season is about to be in full swing again this fall.  Fortunately, Infection Prevention specialists at Divine Savior Healthcare have tips for better preventing and fighting off the flu this year. 

According to Cindy Fraker, Infection Prevention Practitioner at Divine Savior, “The number one way to prevent spreading and contracting illness is through hand hygiene.” Fraker recommends using alcohol-based gels or traditional soap and water frequently and rubbing your hands together for a minimum of 15 -20 seconds as the best defense against unwanted germ sharing with friends, co-workers, and your family.

She states, “Wash your hands frequently and do not be afraid to ask others to do the same.  Consider the number of surfaces you every day and remember to wipe down your equipment with disinfectant, too”.

“It’s also critical that you get the flu vaccine. Even if you’re healthy, even if you don’t like needles, find a way to get vaccinated for influenza”, continues Fraker.  “You may not have any symptoms and could be passing the virus to others, especially those who are vulnerable, if you do not get vaccinated”.

Divine Savior recommends that everyone six months of age and older get the current year flu vaccine. It is important to get vaccinated not just to protect yourself from getting sick, missing work, or being unable to care for your family, but it also prevents spreading the virus to pregnant women, children, the elderly, people with chronic illnesses like asthma, heart disease, diabetes, or anyone at serious risk for flu-related complications.

If you are someone at greater risk for flu-related complications, it is even more imperative that you get vaccinated.

According to the CDC, the vaccines have been given to hundreds of millions of people for more than 50 years and have a very good safety track record.  While you may experience achiness or a bit of pain where you received the shot, these symptoms are typically mild, not the flu, and will only last a day or two.

Fraker states, “It’s best to get vaccinated as early as possible before the flu starts to spread.  It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to provide full protection against the virus.” 

The flu vaccine is safe, it does not cause the flu, and it protects your community and loved ones. There are nasal spray vaccines for those who do not do well with needles, and the vaccines are offered at countless locations, from the doctor’s office, to retail stores, pop up events, schools, clinics and many employers.

“At Divine Savior a flu vaccination is a condition of employment on an annual basis.  The viruses are ever-changing, immunity declines over time, and the minor pain of the shot is nothing compared to the suffering the flu can cause,” concludes Fraker. 

Be smart, wash your hands, get your flu shot, and spread the word. If you or someone you love is in need of a flu vaccination or is suffering from flu-like symptoms, call our Family Medicine Clinic at (608) 745-4598 to schedule an appointment or visit http://dshealthcare.com/family_medicine for more information.


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Experiencing a dull pain in the pit of your stomach

Stomach PainGastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, and gallbladder disease are two very common disorders. Knowing which one you have may be trickier than you think. Symptoms may be vague, such as a “dull pain in the pit of your stomach”, making it hard for you to explain to your doctor what’s exactly going on.

At Divine Savior Healthcare, General Surgeons, Dr. Eric Anderson and Dr. Joshua Pogorelec, have seen many patients with these symptoms and after further examination are able to help  diagnose and treat both diseases.

What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease GERD refers to stomach contents moving into the esophagus causing a burning sensation commonly referred to as heartburn. Other symptoms may occur as well, such as pain in the upper abdomen, bloating, nausea and an acid taste in your mouth.  If this continue, prolonged exposure of the esophagus to stomach contents can result in damage to the lining of the esophagus.  This in turn can result in difficulty swallowing, pain with swallowing or permanent damage to the esophagus.

Although not all reflux results in symptoms or damage to the esophagus, common symptoms include:
• Heartburn
• Acid regurgitation
• Belching
• Difficulty or pain when swallowing
• Waterbrash sudden excess of saliva
• Dysphagia the sensation of food sticking in the esophagus
• Chronic sore throat
• Laryngitis
• Inflammation of the gums
• Erosion of the enamel of the teeth
• Chronic irritation in the throat
• Hoarseness in the morning
• A sour taste
• Bad breath
• Coughing at night

What is gallbladder disease?
The gallbladder is located below the liver on the upper right side of the abdomen. The main function of the gallbladder is to store bile, which is made in the liver and allows fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients to be easily absorbed into the bloodstream. Any condition that affects the gallbladder is considered a disease, and there are many different scenarios that fall under gallbladder disease:
• Inflammation
• Gallstones
• Common bile duct stones
• Biliary Dyskinesia
• Infection
• Perforated gallbladder
• Gallbladder polyps
• Porcelain gallbladders
• Gallbladder cancer

Dr. Anderson and Dr. Pogorelec share "the most common disease of the gallbladder is gallstones. Most people with gallstones do not even know they have them.  Once they cause problems, the gallbladder may need to be removed. Symptoms include pain below the right rib cage or in the “pit” of the stomach. This pain may radiate to the right upper back, chest, or shoulder. Other symptoms may include, bloating, nausea or vomiting, fever or chills, chronic diarrhea, jaundice yellow-tinted skin, or unusual lighter-colored stools or dark urine.”

After taking a closer look at GERD and gallbladder disease, Dr. Anderson and Dr. Pogorelec are able to provide helpful insight on common distinguishing factors between the two diseases.

Common distinguishing factors:
• Location: Although both may feel like a “pit in your stomach”, if you experience symptoms located closer to your throat or in your chest it is more likely to be GERD related. Symptoms located near your right lower rib radiating into your right upper back, chest and shoulder are more likely to be associated to your gallbladder.
• Pain: Unlike GERD, gallbladder pain usually begins suddenly, and changing positions, belching, passing gas or taking medications rarely helps pain symptoms go away.
• Timing: With heartburn being the most common symptom of GERD, symptoms of reflux are likely to occur shortly after eating, where symptoms of gallbladder disease usually occurs several hours after eating and have more consistent patterns of reoccurrence the same time each day.

What does treatment look like?
The symptoms of GERD are commonly and effectively treated with over-the-counter medications such as anti-acids and proton pump inhibitors. However, if relief does not go away from these medications your provider may recommend you be evaluated by one of our surgeons at Divine Savior.

After a thorough history and physical, our surgeons may recommend further evaluation of the esophagus and stomach with endoscopy.  Similar to colonoscopy, but without the need for prep, upper endoscopy allows the surgeon to visualize the esophagus, stomach and intestine to evaluate for damage to the esophagus, infection and a hiatal hernia.  Depending on the findings, further testing may be indicated to evaluate the function of the esophagus. 

Patients with severe GERD benefit from surgery to prevent reflux from occurring.  This procedure is commonly performed by both Dr. Anderson and Dr. Pogorelec, is minimally invasive, and very effective at treating GERD.  In fact, most patients no longer require any antacid medications after the procedure.

If you are found to have stones in the gallbladder causing symptoms, the best course of action is to have the gallbladder removed.  Leaving the stones in place will continue to cause pain and may result in serious infection of the gallbladder and bile ducts, jaundice or pancreatitis. 

Both Dr. Anderson and Dr. Pogorelec routinely perform minimally invasive removal of the gallbladder.  This is most often an outpatient procedure and very successful.  After a short recovery, most patients will find their symptoms are gone and they are able to live a normal life. 

If you experience symptoms related to GERD or gallbladder disease, or have concerns about either, it is best to consult your provider for further examination. Treatment for either disease varies person to person, but taking action immediately and being properly treated can help you prevent problems from worsening.

To schedule an appointment with Divine Savior Healthcare General Surgeons, Dr. Anderson or Dr. Pogorelec, call 608-745-5176.

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