Brent Ursel PA-C
Does it seem like everyone around town has been sick lately?
Seward area residents have recently been hit with a gastrointestinal illness, as well as confirmed cases of influenza A and influenza B. Sixty eight children from Seward Elementary were absent on Monday due to illness; 77 were absent on Tuesday, and 69 were absent on Wednesday.
This years influenza season is off to an early start. In years past, influenza (or THE FLU) started showing up in Seward after New Years and peaked in mid to late February. Confirmed cases of influenza started appearing in Anchorage two weeks ago and have recently been reported in Seward.
Patients with influenza are reporting headaches, sore throat, dry hacky cough, extreme fatigue, fevers to 102, and muscle/joint aches. It is unknown at this time how long these symptoms are lasting, but based on past influenza seasons, symptoms usually last 7-10 days. Those sickened with influenza this year had not been immunized with the flu vaccine. The vaccine is not always 100% effective, but it often helps either prevent those immunized from getting sick or helps shorten the duration and severity of the symptoms. Glacier Family Medicine has no flu vaccine left this year. Providence Hospital, Safeway Pharmacy, and the Public Health Department still have vaccine available. There are some prescription anti viral medications available, that when started within 48 hours of symptoms, may stop the influenza virus from replicating.
Those who do contract the flu should follow Grandma’s advice. Drink plenty of fluids, get plenty of rest, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, wash your hands, and take tylenol and/or ibuprofen for the aches, pain, and fever. If your child is running a fever, you should keep them home from school. If you are unsure about your symptoms, are having difficulty breathing, or think there might be something else going on, follow up with your health care provider.
The second illness making the rounds is a gastroenteritis (also referred to as a stomach flu, but it’s not really a flu). Patients, mostly children, are having repeated bouts of gastroemesis (they are throwing up all over the place-repeatedly) and sometimes diarrhea. This has been followed by a week or longer of some abdominal discomfort. If the vomiting is severe, medication to help stop the nausea and vomiting might be needed. Parents should also watch for signs of dehydration-especially in the very young. Signs of dehydration might include: dry eyes; crying but not making tears; dry, furrowed tongue; skin that when pinched doesn’t go back down; not urinating for more than 6-8 hours, especially during the day,very rapid heart rate, and lethargy. Dehydration may occur from vomiting alone, but can occur more quickly if vomiting is accompanied by diarrhea. If dehydration is suspected, medical attention should be sought immediately.
If you are around someone that has gastroenteritis, you, and they, should be very diligent about hand washing. Common surfaces such as door knobs, phones, facets, toilet handles, etc should be wiped with an anti-viral cleaning solution such as bleach water, lysol, etc.
The State Public Health Department is trying to identify the virus. If and when an identification is made, an update will be posted. People should follow up with their health care providers if they have any concerns, questions, etc.