What's Going Around: flu, stomach bug, ear infections and pink eye

The pediatricians at Penn State Children's Hospital are seeing a lot of flu cases; an increase from last week.

They are also continuing to see a lot of upper respiratory viruses.

To help prevent the spread of illness, their pediatricians are recommending to stay home if you are sick; until you are fever free for at least 24 hours. They also recommend that you wash your hands and cover your cough with your elbow rather than your hands. They also remind people it's not too late to get the flu vaccine.

This week, WellSpan Medical Group providers continue to see cases of the flu, a viral gastrointestinal illness and sinusitis.

In addition, this week WellSpan Medical Group providers saw an increase in the number of vaccines administered to patients. It is still not too late to get a flu shot; the best defense against the flu. Anyone looking to schedule their flu vaccine may contact their primary care provider. For additional information, visit

Flu cases have been observed at WellSpan hospitals, urgent care and primary care locations. WellSpan Medical Group providers urge sick individuals to seek treatment. Early diagnosis may lessen the severity and duration of the illness. The WellSpan Medical Group is asking community members to be vigilant and to be on the lookout for family, friends and neighbors who show signs of respiratory illness and to get them medical care, if needed. Cases of the flu can rapidly worsen, with younger and older populations generally being the most vulnerable.

As a reminder, those seeking care for respiratory illnesses at any WellSpan care site, such as primary or urgent care locations or hospitals, are encouraged to adhere to respiratory etiquette practices. Techniques such as coughing into the inside of your elbow, frequent handwashing with antibacterial soaps for 20 to 30 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, such as Purell, are recommended to help prevent the spread of illness in public and at home.

Those affected by the viral gastrointestinal illness, with symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting, should stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids. Slowly feeding ice pops or drinks such as Pedialyte may help, especially with children. If symptoms do not improve after two days, WellSpan Medical Group providers recommend seeking medical care.

UPMC Pinnacle's Heritage Pediatrics says in addition to continued influenza activity, they are seeing a lot of ear infections and ear pain.

Dr. Kathleen Zimmerman offered the following advice about ear infections:

"Ear infections are usually bacterial, which means they will often need prescription antibiotics to clear up. However, not all ear pain is an ear infection. Sometimes the pain is from pressure behind the ear, which often happens when you have a cold or congestion in your nose.

If the pain is mild and comes and goes, it could be from congestion. For younger children, clearing their nose and sitting them upright will help. For older children, over the counter pain relievers and sometimes cold medications can help take pressure off the ear.

If the ear pain becomes severe, especially if they are awakening in the night or refusing to eat or drink because of the pain, or if the ear pain is associated with a fever, then they should be seen by a medical provider."

This week, Lancaster General Health Physicians Roseville Pediatrics continued to see a high number of flu and strep throat cases.

They're also continuing to see an increase in colds, as well as an increase in related cases of viral pink eye and ear infections.

Bronchiolitis was detected in infants in moderate numbers.

Dr. Joan Thode offered the following advice about pink eye:

"It's common to see a proportional increase in pink eye cases as the number of viral upper respiratory tract infections increases because they are frequently caused by the same virus.

Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, can be caused by bacteria, viruses or allergies. The conjunctiva is the clear layer that covers the eye and the inner part of the eyelids. There are a few ways to tell these different causes apart, which is important, as they are treated very differently.

Viral pink eye tends to show up in both eyes at the same time after a few days of cold symptoms. It also can come with tearing and a scratchy sensation in the eyes. It typically causes tearing or a mucous-like discharge from the eyes.

Bacterial pink eye occurs suddenly, often without cold symptoms. While it can spread to both eyes, it typically starts in one eye. Eye discharge is often thicker, though with kids, this is not a consistent rule. Bacterial pink eye is treated with antibiotic eye drops. Oral antibiotics are reserved for more severe cases.

Allergic pink eye can be in one or both eyes and tends to present with more itching and burning. The allergy could be to something that was rubbed on the eye surface vs. something in the air, like pollen. The eyes often will have tearing and watery discharge. Allergic conjunctivitis is also treated with eye drops to improve the allergic response of the immune system in that site.

Viral conjunctivitis is caused by the same virus that causes the antecedent upper respiratory infection and is usually spread to the surface of the eye by eye-rubbing with hands that are contaminated with the virus. Unfortunately, viruses do not respond to antibiotics, so viral pink eye does not respond to antibiotic drops. The good news is that the immune system will kill off the virus on the surface of the eyes as it kills the virus causing the cold symptoms.

Viral and bacterial pink eye are extremely contagious. The best way to prevent spread is very frequent hand-washing and avoiding contact of hands to eyes.

Regardless of the cause of pink eye, it is very important to not wear contact lenses while the eye is infected, as this can damage the surface of the cornea, the clear part of the eye that we see through that covers the iris and pupil.

Pink eye is usually not painful but can feel gritty when blinking, leading kids to frequently rub their eyes. Acute pain occurring with eye movement or when light hits the eye is much more concerning for a complication of pink eye, such as a corneal abrasion or worsening infection, and should be evaluated by a primary-care physician or ophthalmologist.

Any baby younger than two months with pink eye symptoms also should be quickly evaluated by a physician. Any pink eye that also causes a change in vision should be evaluated immediately by an eye doctor."

Geisinger Holy Spirit reports the following illnesses at various locations:

Geisinger Holy Spirit Primary Care, Duncannon: Upper respiratory conditions, sinus infection, cough, cold and gastrointestinal issues with vomiting/diarrhea

Geisinger Holy Spirit Primary Care, Carlisle: flu, upper respiratory conditions, sinus infection, cough, cold and gastrointestinal issues with vomiting/diarrhea

Geisinger Holy Spirit Urgent Care, Carlisle: flu, strep throat

Geisinger Holy Spirit Pediatrics, Cumberland and Dauphin counties: flu, strep throat and viral infections

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