If you are reading this from a hospital room, you are not alone.
Shoals hospitals are experiencing higher-than-normal patient counts but no one illness is to blame.
Hospital officials say flu, pneumonia, stomach viruses and other diagnoses have filled rooms since before Christmas.
A high volume of patients is to be expected during the winter months, but this year has been worse than previous years for some illnesses, said Christi Bowling, manager of infection prevention at Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital in Florence.
"A lot of flu patients have come in through the emergency department and a lot of have been admitted," Bowling said. "Not everyone is being admitted, but there has been an increase."
Misty Tumlinson, interim director of the emergency department at Helen Keller Hospital in Sheffield, said they have also seen increased emergency room visits in recent weeks. She said the department is averaging 140 visits a day but have had as many as 170.
"It is not unusual to have high volumes in winter, but it has begun sooner the usual," Tumlinson said.
Bowling said there seems to be more pediatric patients admitted to the hospital as well. She said several have been admitted with flu or a rotavirus, stomach virus, and in some cases, the young patients have had both.
"It seems it was a good time to get kids out of school," Bowling said. "The break has likely given schools a chance to be cleared of any virus or infection that might have been lingering."
At Shoals Hospital in Muscle Shoals, infection preventionist Amy Seay said they are experiencing patient counts that are high but not necessarily higher-than-normal. But Seay said they do expect a spike in the coming days as illnesses continue to circulate through the community.
"This is a peak time for pneumonia and we have had a lot of flu cases coming to the emergency department," she said. "A lot of times when you start seeing neighboring areas having elevated (patient counts) you can anticipate that your area will see that as well."
With highly-contagious bugs on the prowl, prevention is key. Seay said vaccines are helpful in preventing some of the most prevalent illnesses. The pneumococcal vaccine is recommended for those 65 and older and the seasonal flu vaccine is recommended for those older than 6 months, Seay said.
"If you know someone who is ill, it is probably best to avoid people that are sick," Seay said, adding that hand washing, using hand sanitizer and covering the mouth when sneezing and coughing also help prevent the spread of illness.
Local hospitals also recommend individuals use caution when visiting patients.
Helen Keller Hospital posts signs alerting staff, visitors and patients to the importance of hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, said Debbie Thompson, infection preventionist at Helen Keller Hospital
"We love to have visitors but now might not be the best time," Bowling said. "If you are experiencing symptoms or have a compromised immune system it is probably best to not visit the hospital."
Jennifer Edwards can be reached at 256-740-5754 or jennifer.edwards@TimesDaily.com.
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
Avoid close contact with sick people.
If you are sick with flu-like illness, the Center for Disease Control recommends you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible.