Just in time for the holidays-double whammy of “stomach flu” and influenza hits Seward

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.

Advertisement

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.

 

 

 

11 Comments

  1. Thanks for posting this! I have been hearing stories about these different types of flu/bugs going around. The intestinal ones sounds very bad. ; – ( Heard about a family that all had it at the same time…yikes.

  2. Thank you for the post. My daughter is one of those El kids sick. She spiked a very high fever of 104.5 on Saturday (day 2 of the flu for her). We are now going into day 7 and she is still holding on to the high temps. I agree with your advice–keep your kids home if they a sick. I think the advice is usually staying home until 24 hours after the fever breaks for good. If your child ends up sick you might need to plan for a week off. We had an appointment for her to get her flu shot, but she got sick just before then. If your child hasn’t been sick, I suggest you look into getting the vaccination sooner rather than later.

  3. Thanks for all that useful information Brent. It’s great to have all that information directly pertinent to Seward.

  4. Thanks Bent.
    I have had repeated conversations with Seward El. principle, nurse and teachers about this subject. Do you know this year kids are eating their lunches in the class room at their desks which do not get sanitized before lunch. One teacher told me they may get a wipe down on Fridays. I’m not expecting a germ free environment. But I do expect a clean place for our children to eat!! This may be a big contributing factor to the high numbers of sick children as well.

    • I am fearful that the comment is a distinct generalization. We are highly supported with the necessary cleaning supplies to keep our classrooms clean. I don’t mean to venture in to a generalization as well but we are always looking out for the well-being of our students.

  5. Having kids eat at their own personal desk is probably a lot more sanitary than having them sit at communal cafeteria tables. Everytime I’ve gone into my child’s classroom I’ve seen Lysol disinfectant wipes set out for use. And while I’m glad the teacher is taking steps to keep the classroom clean, honestly I’d prefer if his desk wasn’t wiped down with toxic chemicals right before he puts food on it. The best thing we can do to keep our community healthy is keeps our kids home when they’re sick, teach them to sneeze into their elbow, use a tissue to blow their nose, immunize them, and wash their hands. And they’ll probably still get sick because sometimes we just have one of those years, and young elementary age children are still learning to master their hygiene skills.

  6. I disagree ami, a cafeteria table has been sanitized before the child gets there. Sitting at there desks is just as communal plus all the caked on food and germs from an un
    washed surface! Its basic common sense.

    • I have recently eaten lunch with my kindergartner daughter. I watched all the students clorox wipe their tables. The teachers are not lazy or dumb.
      I would be more afraid of the food that is being fed to the students eating hot lunch. That is not to say that tit served in an unsanitary way, it is clean…. but instead, not nutritional. There is a real issue with nutrition and health care.
      Nurse Emily is an amazing woman and taking care of all of our children. She nurtures them and gets them home to us when they are sick…. but then so many parents take their children to Safeway, and other places that are way too public.
      Please lets not generalize and blame the school.