Flu season sees slow start; activity increases in Moffat County | CraigDailyPress.com

Flu season sees slow start; activity increases in Moffat County

A provider prepares the flu vaccine for injection.

CRAIG — Flu season started slowly across the United States, but cases have begun to increase locally, and vaccinations are still available from area providers.

"We have been seeing a mixture of influenza, strep, viral colds and viral stomach bugs through the Convenient Care Clinic most recently," said Maggie Schoeberl, a physician assistant at the Urgent Care Clinic at Memorial Regional Health Medical Clinic.

Most of these common ailments, with the exception of strep, are viral.

"We do not have an antibiotic we can give that will fix the problem. I think it is incredibly important to stress this to our community, as we often have patients request or become upset if they do not receive antibiotics," Schoeberl said.

She tries to reassure patients that antibiotics are not always what's best for them.

"This will not help and can actually create a much more severe problem, which is the creation of superbugs, resulting in resistance to these antibiotics in the future," she said. "The best thing you can do if you know you have a virus is to stay home, rest, increase fluids and take appropriate over-the-counter remedies to avoid spread to other people."

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Providers can assist patients in determining if the illness is viral or bacterial.

Prevention is still recommended as the best course of action to avoid viral illnesses. As flu season usually peaks in February and can last until May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise it's not too late to be vaccinated.

"Flu vaccination can vary in how well it works but remains the best way to prevent influenza illness and associated complications," according to the CDC. "However, treatment with influenza antiviral medications close to the onset of illness is recommended for patients with confirmed or suspected influenza that have severe, complicated or progressive illness; who require hospitalization; or who are at high risk for influenza complications."

To encourage people to be vaccinated, the CDC will hold National Influenza Vaccination Week Dec. 3 through 9 to highlight the importance of continuing flu vaccination through the holiday season and beyond.

The CDC and its partners chose December as a way to remind people that, even though the holiday season has begun, it is not too late to get a flu vaccine.

"As long as flu viruses are spreading and causing illness, vaccination should continue throughout the flu season in order to protect as many people as possible against the flu," the CDC said. "Even if you haven't yet been vaccinated and have already gotten sick with flu, you can still benefit from vaccination, since the flu vaccine protects against three or four different flu viruses."

Those who suspect they may have the flu or another viral illness are encouraged to take steps to protect others.

"Influenza is spread by respiratory droplets, meaning that it is transmitted through coughing and sneezing," Schoeberl said. "It is important to be aware of this and wear a mask anytime you are around the public or family members and even if you just have a suspicion that you may have the flu."

Illnesses such as influenza lower the immune system, making people more prone to ear infections, sinus infections and, more seriously, pneumonia.

"It is important to monitor your influenza symptoms for any abrupt, more severe changes in your symptoms or regression of the symptoms after initial improvement," Schoeberl said.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

Tips to feel better

If the worst happens and illness strikes, Physician Assistant Maggie Schoeberl offers the following tips to feel better.

• There is no antibiotic for influenza, as it is viral. Most of the time, influenza can be successfully treated at home without a clinic visit by rest and over the counter remedies.

• Natural cough remedies can be helpful in soothing the throat and helping alleviate a cough. Also, use a humidifier; sleep about 45 degrees upright; use nasal saline and nasal steroid sprays, such as Flonase or Nasacort; increase fluids; and use Tylenol or ibuprofen for aches and pains

• I typically encourage Mucinex and Sudafed (depending on age and prior medical problems; always consult with a pharmacist or your primary care provider to see what you can safely take over the counter), Neti pot rinses (sinus rinses), Flonase (a nasal steroid spray), humidifier and elevating the head of the bed. All of these help work against the drainage that builds up in our sinuses and down our throats during a cold or the flu.

• It is really important for the body to rest when you are ill and exercise should be avoided until symptoms are 100-percent improved. The more you fatigue your body when you are ill, the slower your recovery can be. In my experience, if you try to push yourself through illness, it takes you that much longer to recover and get back to work/normal daily activities. I always instruct my patients that they cannot return to work until they are 24 hours fever free and without a cough or sneezing.

• When there is a high production of phlegm, we definitely utilize the suction clinic for babies and toddlers. Babies and toddlers often have a difficult time clearing their secretions, unlike adults, who can utilize nose blowing and Neti pots.

•We do have an antiviral we can prescribe called Tamiflu. It is important to be aware that influenza is viral and not bacterial, meaning that the antiviral we give is not a treatment for the flu, but rather to hopefully reduce the symptoms, make them less severe and hopefully shorten them, and is sometimes given to family members to hopefully prevent them from catching it. Talk with your provider to see if this is an option.

• I especially recommend the following people to seek medical attention regarding their flu-like symptoms, due to the high risk of hospitalization and secondary pneumonia in these populations: residents of nursing homes and other chronic care facilities, children younger than age 5, adults age 65 or older, pregnant women and women up to two weeks postpartum and individuals with chronic medical conditions.