Today's Medicine

Influenza and Other Viruses on the Rise

Feeling miserable? You’re not alone.

Sniffing, sneezing and a terrible hacking cough. Winter viruses are striking early and striking hard. We’ve seen an increase in the patients seeking help at our Methodist Physicians Clinic in Regency. Among the viruses already on the rise is influenza. 

Numbers on the rise

According to the Douglas County Health Department (DCHD), there’s been a significant uptick in the number of influenza cases. During the week of Christmas, there were 299 cases that tested positive for influenza – that’s nearly double the week before, and more than triple from the first week of December. They also report an increase in the number of visits to emergency rooms and people admitted into the hospital with an influenza-like illness.

This spike in illness comes very early in the cold and flu season. December’s numbers are nearly six times the number of flu cases at this time last year.

What is influenza?

Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus. Its effects can be mild or severe – and in certain people, such as seniors, young children and those with compromised immune systems, can be deadly.

The best way to prevent the flu is to get a vaccine. The vaccine protects against three or four separate strains of the flu. Everyone over six months of age should get vaccinated to protect themselves and others. You should note that even if you get the vaccine, you can still get the flu. But its’ effects will likely be less severe.

Expecting? Why you should get the flu vaccine

Symptoms of seasonal influenza

So what does influenza look like? Sufferers may experience:

  • Fever
  • Coughing and/or sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Headache
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Chills
  • Fatigue

Some people may also experience vomiting and diarrhea, however this is more common in children than adults.

So what can you do to feel better?

For mild symptoms, the best thing you can do is simply treat with over-the-counter medications. Take a fever-reducer such as Tylenol to bring down your temperature, get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids.

Since influenza is a virus, antibiotics, which treat bacterial infections, won’t help your symptoms. In people with symptoms of influenza, one should pursue a diagnostic test. Antiviral medications may be a good treatment option to prevent some serious untoward outcomes of this disease.

When to see the doctor

You should visit with your primary care provider if you start having fevers greater than 100 degrees for more than a day or two with muscle aches and pains,sore throat, or if you know you were exposed to somebody who had influenza. You only have 48 hours to be seen if you think you have influenza to get started on Tamiflu. Tamiflu can help prevent spread of disease, but it will only decrease your symptoms by about one day.

You may also want to see the doctor if you have moderate to severe symptoms, if you have a history of chronic disease such as asthma or heart disease, or if you would like to hear more about getting antiviral medication.

Don’t spread your illness

Since the flu is highly contagious, to protect others, you should also make sure you practice good hand hygiene and stay home from work or school. If you have flu at home, try to keep your distance as much as possible from those who are sick and be sure to disinfect surfaces that may become contaminated.

If you have questions about influenza, be sure to talk with your Methodist Physicians Clinic health care provider.

About the Author

Dr. Rudolf Kotula is a board-certified infectious disease physician. He specializes in areas such as antibiotic resistance, travel medicine and infection prevention.

You can visit Dr. Kotula at Methodist Physicians Clinic.

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