Flu Epidemic: What's Going Around for the Week of Jan. 15
The flu has hit the Coachella Valley hard this year. That's just one thing local doctors are talking about when looking at "What's Going Around" the area where you live.
- Starting in Palm Springs, this last week was overwhelmed by the respiratory bug that has gripped the valley. Dr. Michael Jardula describes this as bronchitis, fever and misery. See your doctor for help if you are experiencing symptoms.
- Dr. Tate de Leon tells us he's had several patient calls each day about people who have the flu in Rancho Mirage. He says everyone should get vaccinated, but those who are high-risk should especially get one. That includes those with diabetes, asthma, chronic lung diseases, pregnant women, and those older than 65. Some key facts about the flu from Dr. de Leon:
- The flu is not a benign illness. Over the past 40 years, anywhere from 3,000 to 50,000 deaths have been attributed to the flu.
- The flu shot does not cover all strains of the flu. Experts try to guess the three most common strains of the flu each year and that comprises that year's vaccine. There may be other strains of the flu in your area that are not covered by the three strains in the vaccine.
- The flu shot canNOT give you the flu. It is an inactivated (i.e., not a "live" virus) and therefore can only cause soreness at the injection site and maybe a slight low-grade fever or muscle aches.
- The flu shot takes two weeks before your immune system can make the appropriate antibodies, so you can still catch the flu of the same strain within the first two weeks after being vaccinated.
- There are other viruses that may cause similar symptoms but are not the influenza virus. These viruses may cause a shorter period of illness in general
- Medication is available to help decrease the duration of the flu (Tamiflu) but it must be started within 48 hours of initial symptoms to be effective.
- Please discuss the flu vaccine with your doctor for further information.
- Dr. Efren Wu has also been seeing a LOT of upper respiratory infections in La Quinta because of the recent cold temperatures and plenty of suspected flu. This illness comes with high-spiking fevers, malaise and body aches. The earlier you get diagnosed with the flu, the better, because your doctor can provide an anti-viral medication that works best early-on.
- In Indio Physician's Assistant Mitch Claire reminds us we are in the midst of a flu epidemic. High fevers, productive cough, body ache, and headache are the main symptoms. He says it is very important to stay hydrated. Ear infections are also going around because of the windy weather. "Antibiotic drops usually suffice," says Claire.
- And at the Mecca Clinic-- you guessed it-- flu is also going around. Dr. Randolph Gibbs says prevent further spread by getting your flu shot, and do lots of hand washing. "While flu activity is unpredictable, an increase is expected from early January thru March," Gibbs says. "The best defense against the flu is getting vaccinated." Symptoms include: fever, cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, muscle aches, headaches or fatigue. Those at high-risk are the elderly, pregnant women, and infants.
- A respiratory infection going around Palm Springs has become so severe and out of control that Dr. Frank Arian has a huge sign on his door announcing respiratory isolation for all his patients, including mandatory use of alcohol-based cleanser on hands, masking up, and knocking before being allowed to answer. "It's the worst I have seen in my tenure," Arian says.
- The little ones in Rancho Mirage are coming in to see Dr. Arturo Quintanilla with rotavirus gastroenteritis. This includes severe vomiting and diarrhea plus fever. These children are requiring I.V. hydration at the ER! Children under two are also suffering from influenza or RSV bronchiolitis. Those over two have bronchitis. This leads to severe cases of wheezing and shortness of breath.
- Dr. Erica Ruiz reminds us "the desert is sick right now," and it's very busy in her La Quinta office. She is seeing shingles, a painful skin illness with blisters. She's also treating a very infectious upper respiratory infection that's making the rounds through families, friends and co-workers. It starts with a sore throat and fatigue, then turns into a deep bronchial cough that takes 10 days to three weeks to get better on its own.
- In Coachella, Dr. Frank Curry also tells us respiratory illness is at the top of the list. For the most part patients present as if they have a virus, although some are testing positive for strep throat. Ear infections and sinus infections are causing phlegm. Curry says fluids help make the phlegm thinner, and less like glue so that it can leave the body easier. "The ear infections and sinus infections present problems for commercial airline travelers since the change of pressure can be uncomfortable if their ears, or sinus passages are clogged," Curry adds.
Watch "What's Going Around" Tuesday evenings at 5:30 and Wednesday mornings on CBS Local 2 News.
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