Flu season comes early

Originally Posted Online: Jan. 08, 2013, 8:07 pm
Last Updated: Jan. 09, 2013, 7:42 am
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By Kelly Steiner, ksteiner@qconline.com

Local hospitals and convenient care centers are seeing an earlier-than-usual influx of people with the flu and other upper respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia.

In the last month, Trinity hospitals have treated 372 cases of upper respiratory infections and pneumonia, with 123 people admitted as patients.

Of those 372 upper respirator infections, 212 were pneumonia, Trinity Rock Island Emergency Department nurse manager John Carslake said.

Genesis spokesman Craig Cooper said Genesis admitted more than 10 people with pneumonia in the past two weeks, four this week.

Dr. James Henderson, of Trinity Express Care in Bettendorf, said upper respiratory infectionsare more serious than normal this year.

He said anyone with shortness of breath or who is coughing up blood should see a doctor immediately, because those could be signs of pneumonia. People also should see a doctor if theycan't keepfluids down, are dehydrated or can't manage at home, Dr. Henderson said.

The flu season also is hitting hard, and earlier than usual.

In the last three weeks, Trinity has diagnosed 84 people with the flu, 35 in the last week, Trinity spokeswoman Erin Lounsberry said, adding that six people had to be hospitalized.

Genesis has admitted10 people with the flu in the last two weeks, Mr. Cooper said.

"We are seeing more people with upper respiratory illnesses than we usually do at this time of year," Genesis infection prevention coordinator Lisa Caffery said, adding that flu season usually hits hard in mid-January to early February and can last until May.

Ms. Lounsberry saidTrinity Express Care started getting "record numbers" of people with the flu a few weeks ago, and, although the pace slowed this week, the season is not over.

The flu may be hitting sooner, but Ms. Caffery said that, so far, symptoms aren't any worse than usual.

She recommends that people get a flu shot, wash their hands regularly, cover coughs and stay home if they're sick.

Unless people are having trouble breathing, are dehydrated, have severe lethargy, their symptoms improve and then return with a fever and worse cough, or a child becomes so irritable he or she doesn't want to be held, they don't need to see a doctor for the flu.

Ms. Caffery said this year'svaccine is a "good match" for the flu strains people are contracting.

Mr. Cooper said there "really is no treatment" for the flu, but it can be serious for the very young, very old and anyone with a chronic condition like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)."

Is it the flu or a cold?

- High fever of 102-104 degrees for three to four days
- Chills, headaches, severe aches and pains, chest discomfort, a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing and sore throat are common
- Moderate to severe fatigue that can last 14-21 days, with extreme exhaustion early on
- A moderate, dry cough that can last three days to two weeks. 
- Infected people are contagious one day before symptoms begin and for three to seven days after

- Fever is uncommon, and usually low-grade if present
- Mild aches, pains and chest discomfort, mild fatigue, stuffy or runny nose accompanied by sneezing, and sore throat are common
- Chills, headaches and extreme exhaustion are uncommon
- A hacking, productive cough will last three to seven days but responds to cough medications
- Infected people typically are contagious four to seven days after symptoms start, but sometimes longer

Source: Iowa Department of Public Health


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