What's Going Around: Flu diagnosed in Lancaster County

Providers at Penn State Children's Hospital are seeing a resurgence of hand, foot and mouth disease. Also going around this week is the common cold and bronchiolitis.

UPMC Pinnacle's Heritage Pediatrics in Camp Hill is seeing a lot of ear infections.  Often they present as ear pain that comes on suddenly after a week of stuffy nose or cold symptoms. A true ear infection requires antibiotics because it is caused by bacteria.
"But there are many causes of ear pain that are not infection, such as pressure on the ear from sinus and nasal congestion," Dr. Kathleen Zimmerman said.  "This could be from a virus, like the common cold, or from allergies. Sometimes ear pain is actually referred pain from a sore throat or from a dental problem."

If your child is complaining of ear pain it is best to have his/her medical provider examine them to see what the cause is.  If it is not an ear infection, then antibiotics won't help and should not be used. Your doctor might recommend something else to relieve the pain.

This week Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health Physicians Roseville Pediatrics saw an increase in seasonal allergy cases and strep throat.

The number of viral colds remained at a moderate level, but they continued to see an increase in croup.

The stomach bug has continued to make the rounds, presenting with vomiting, diarrhea or both.
Hand, foot and mouth virus is still around, though decreasing.

Roseville providers have seen a few flu-like illnesses this week; not confirmed by swab, as swabs are saved for specific cases, but there were a couple of confirmed flu cases in the Lancaster General Health system this week. The flu is here in Lancaster.
Dr. Joan Thode offered the following advice about the flu:

"Influenza is a group of viruses that causes a syndrome of fevers, chills, extreme fatigue, muscle aches, congestion, cough, headache and sore throat. These symptoms occur due to the virus invading the cells of the body, as well as the immune system's attack of the body's cells in an attempt to kill the virus that invaded them. When there is a body-wide immune attack on flu-invaded cells, tissues and organs can be damaged to the point of not functioning. That is when the flu can become dangerous and deadly. The time is now to get your family vaccinated for the flu!
How the flu shot works:
 A major issue with influenza is that it rapidly changes its outward appearance. While the core structure of the flu stays the same, the tiny molecules that adorn its surface can change rapidly. This makes it hard to create a flu vaccine that primes the immune system's memory cells to recognize the surface of the flu because that surface changes. That's why, unlike other vaccines, the flu shot is never perfect. BUT that's also why the makers of the flu vaccine include not only pieces of the predicted surface molecules but also pieces of the core structure of the flu that don't change. This is where getting the flu shot can be lifesaving.

·Think of it like a high school reunion. Though your high school acquaintances may have changed their hairstyle, put on a little weight or started wearing glasses, you would still recognize them because their face, laugh and personality (their "core") don't drastically change. If you randomly ran into one of these prior acquaintances while out running errands, you would have some recognition, even if you couldn't immediately recall their name.

This is how flu vaccines work. The flu will change its hairstyle and outward appearance every season, but by giving your immune cells a taste not only of the predicted hairstyle but also of the core molecule, your immune system will have some familiarity with it. And when memory immune cells recognize something-even partially-they sound the alert and activate the immune system to destroy the microbe.
We know that the flu virus moves quickly to invade our body's cells, but when the immune system is primed to recognize pieces of it, the defense process starts sooner. Yes, you may still be unlucky enough to get the flu infection despite getting the shot, depending on which strain infects you. But with an armed immune system, you will have a decreased severity of the illness that can be lifesaving.

You can't get the flu from the flu shot. The intact virus is not in the shot. There are just a few pieces of the influenza structure to give your immune system enough of a taste to learn how to identify it. As with any shot, your immune system will be activated, which uses a lot of energy and may make you feel a bit tired. But your symptoms are not the true flu, as your cells are not being destroyed as they are with the flu."

The CVS MinuteClinic in Harrisburg reported the following this week:
Submitted by: Jessica Clabaugh, Nurse Practitioner, MinuteClinic in Lancaster
"Sinus congestion, and colds sometimes lead to ear infections in our youngest patients. Over the last week, we treated more cases of inner ear infections. Pain from these infections tends to appear suddenly and may be signaled by toddlers waking in the night with fever or tugging at their ears. Treatment includes antibiotics and over the counter fever reducer.

We continue to see lots of patients complaining of sinus pain. Most sinus illnesses are viral in nature, and tends to last ten to twelve days. Support yourself through illness with lots of hydration, and a humidifier next to your bed at night. Over the counter medications such as pain relievers, and intranasal steroids can help to reduce the severity of symptoms experienced. If you are past day 10 of illness, or if you have increasing facial pain or high fever, present to Minute Clinic or your primary care physician for further evaluation to see if an antibiotic is warranted.

Our clinic and many pharmacies are offering the flu vaccine. Taking the flu vaccine cannot give you the illness itself. With immunization, you will be protected against three to four strains for the flu. Even if the vaccine is not a perfect match to this year's flu virus, individuals who have been vaccinated do better if they end up contracting the illness.  We have vaccines available for all individuals 18 months and older, including the high dose vaccine for seniors. Come in today!"

Geisinger Holy Spirit Primary Care in Cumberland County reports upper respiratory virus, strep throat, vomiting, diarrhea, and fevers.

Geisinger Holy Spirit Pediatrics in Cumberland and Dauphin counties reports croup, strep, lots of bug bites, and a prolonged fever virus with some achiness and a smattering of gastroenteritis.

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