What’s Going Around: Flu cases spike this week

UPMC Pinnacle’s Heritage Pediatrics in Camp Hill reports seeing more influenza cases this week. 

Patients are starting with high fever, chills, watery eyes, body aches and fatigue.  The fevers are lasting five to seven days.  A sore throat, runny nose and cough also develops in the first 24 hours and the cough can worsen over a period of a week or longer. 

There is a nasal test for influenza, but during influenza season, you may not be tested for it because the test is not always accurate. So if you appear to have influenza, your doctor may decide to treat you with the anti-flu medication, Tamiflu, if it is appropriate.  Tamiflu only works if given in the first 48 hours of symptoms and even then it only reduces symptoms for one to two days. 

Tamiflu has side effects, so it may only be recommended if you are considered high risk based on age and chronic ailments.   The best way to prevent influenza is the flu vaccine.  Although it may not work 100 percent of the time, it does reduce the chances of getting the flu and of having dangerous flu complications.  Influenza is very contagious and spreads through the air, so if you have flu-like symptoms you should try to avoid being in public and around other people, especially babies and the elderly.   You should call your doctor to see if you qualify for treatment or if you need to be seen. 

This week at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health Physicians Roseville Pediatrics, they saw a sharp increase in influenza. They saw 30 cases of the flu and all of the tested cases were Influenza A.

Strep also increased, with 50 percent of the sore throat cases turning out to be strep. They also saw an increase in ear infections, as the number of fevers and viral upper respiratory tract infections has been unrelenting.

Croup is also on the rise, but incidence of the stomach bug went down.

Dr. Joan Thode offered the following advice about influenza:

“Influenza refers to a family of viruses that causes high fevers, fatigue, muscle aches, sore throat, congestion and headache. A person is typically contagious from about three days prior to these symptoms starting until the fevers stop. This year’s flu shot was a lot better-matched to the prevailing strains of the flu than last year.  Even though it is almost spring, Roseville strongly urges patients to get the flu shot, as the flu season doesn’t show signs of stopping!

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. That’s why, unlike other vaccines, the flu shot is never perfect.

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 doesn’t change. This is where getting the flu shot can be lifesaving. By giving your immune cells a taste not only of the predicted surface molecules but also of the core molecules, 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. 

The flu virus moves fast 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, 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 because 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, and your cells are not being destroyed as they are with the flu.”

WellSpan Pediatric Medicine Physicians have also seen a renewed spike in the flu in the past two weeks. It’s an important reminder that we’re not in the clear just yet, and to remain vigilant in hand-washing and other prevention measures. They also continued to see gastroenteritis, bronchiolitis, and pneumonia.

The CVS MinuteClinic in York saw a case of influenza B this week, but says more influzenza A is still circulating.  They diagnosed several cases of strep and many patients with viral upper respiratory infections and viral sinusitis.

Jessica Myers of the CVS MinuteClinic in Lancaster reported the following this week:

“Influenza A – We are continuing to see cases of influenza in the area. Patients are presenting with several days of high fever, body aches, chills, headache, sore throat and cough. Prompt diagnosis is important for prescription antiviral medications which must be started in the first one to two days of illness. Over-the-counter treatments include pain and fever reducers, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, fluids and rest. Try to limit contact to prevent further spread. Closely monitor for complications especially in the elderly, young children, pregnant women and other coexisting medical complications.

Lancaster is seeing an increase in bacterial sinusitis cases in patients with poorly controlled allergies. Symptoms include fullness and pain in the cheeks, persistent nasal discharge and post nasal drip, sore throat, cough and fatigue. More sinusitis cases are viral and will resolve within approximately 10 days. Treatments include nasal steroids, nasal saline rinses, antihistamines if underlying allergies and antibiotics if meeting criteria for length and severity of illness along with clinical assessment abnormal findings.”

Geisinger Holy Spirit Primary Care in Cumberland County reports the flu, bronchitis and a stomach bug.

Geisinger Holy Spirit Primary Care in York County reports cough, cold, sinus congestion and the flu.

This week pediatricians at Penn State Children’s Hospital are seeing a lot of cases of the flu, both A and B strains. They are also seeing a lot of respiratory infections and colds.

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