‘Crud’ keeps doctors busy

Published 5:59pm Sunday, January 9, 2011

The malady has been given a variety of names including flu, stomach-bug, virus and crud. A cloud of “sick” seems to be hovering over the area with increased illnesses and a variety of symptoms.

Miranda Nolen, physician’s assistant at Atmore Family Medicine offices, said an increase in the number of patients exhibiting flu symptoms has seen an increase recently.

“We have seen a definite increase in the flu over the past few weeks,” Nolen said. “We are seeing more and more every day. I see at least one case every day or so and our other assistant has seen four cases already this season.”

Along with typical cases of flu, Nolen said other illnesses are creeping onto the medical scene as well.

“We have seen quite a lot of upper respiratory viral cases,” Nolen said. “That’s not the flu, but it can certainly make you feel bad. We are also seeing an unusual number of strep cases as well.”

According to statistics released by the Alabama Department of Public Health, those symptoms seen by many area residents are typical for activity seen on the health front.

Dr. Donald Williamson, state health officer, said the disease activity has seen a recent increase across the state.

“Influenza activity is on the rise in Alabama and is considered significant,” Williamson said.

Influenza-like illnesses represented almost 11 percent of physician office visits among reporting physician practices during a recent one-week period. In the week prior to the report being released, only 6 percent of visits were for flue-like illnesses.

Dr. Marsha Raulerson, a pediatrician with Lower Alabama Pediatrics in Brewton, said it’s never too late to get a flu vaccine.

“We always stress the importance of getting the flu vaccine to our patients,” Raulerson said. “Even though what people usually consider flu season has already begun, it’s not too late to get the vaccine to prevent the flu.”

Raulerson said it takes 10 to 14 days for the vaccine to be fully effective against the flu virus; however, getting the vaccine at any time is a good idea.

“I encourage people to get a flu vaccine as soon as they can,” Raulerson said. “The most important thing is to get the vaccine. Last year, we saw flu in June. Because of that I suggest as long as the vaccine has not expired and is still available, getting the vaccine at any time would be a benefit.”

Nolen said the best defense against the flu is to get the vaccine.

“The most effective way to keep from getting the flu is to get the vaccine,” Nolen said. “Ways to avoid getting the virus include washing your hands frequently and avoid those who have the flu.”

Although some medications can shorten the duration of the virus in many patients, Nolen said the illness can be beaten without treatment.

“The best thing to do if you believe you have the flu is to stay at home,” Nolen said. “Drink plenty of fluids, ibuprofen or Tylenol for the aches and pains and plenty of rest. It will run its course untreated.”

Symptoms of the flu may appear suddenly, Nolen said.

“Most people experience the symptoms of the flu virus suddenly,” Nolen said. “Some patients say it feels like a truck ran over them. That’s probably pretty close. The symptoms of flu are body aches and pains, high fever and coughs. Upper respiratory illnesses can creep up on you and don’t hit quite as hard as the flu. Those illnesses usually have symptoms of low grade fevers and generally just feeling bad.”

Residents who have not taken the influenza vaccine can still check with the Escambia County Health Department or a private physician about availability of the vaccine.

Williamson said everyone, young and old, should pay close attention to the suggestion of getting the flu vaccine.

“Influenza is a disease of the lungs and it can lead to pneumonia, hospitalization and even death,” Williamson said. “Talk to your healthcare provider now about scheduling your flu shot as soon as possible. There is an ample supply of the vaccine this year.”

ADPH reports have indicated that testing performed by the ADPH Bureau of Clinical Laboratories over the past two weeks show three strains of influenza circulating in Alabama: type A (1009H1N1), type A (H3) and type B. Of the specimens submitted, 92 percent are influenza type B. All three strains are included in this season’s influenza vaccine.

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