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Flu season off to early start
Local doctors keeping busy as virulent viruses spread
flu-vaccine

It’s not quite winter, but seasonal illness has already made an appearance in Bulloch County. Waiting rooms are filled with people suffering from chills and fever, aches and pains, and other flulike symptoms.
According to the Southeast Health District website (www.sehdph.org), several strains of flu have been identified in the 16-county district, which includes Bulloch, Candler, Screven and surrounding counties.
Dr. Allan Scott, an emergency room physician with East Georgia Regional Medical Center, said patients are steadily coming in with flulike symptoms, hoping to ease their suffering, but often, simply staying home and treating the symptoms would be a better option.
The flu viruses — mainly influenza A and influenza B — are keeping doctors “really hopping these days,” he said. “It is that time of year. We’ve been seeing a surge in flu bugs going on statewide.”
Another strain, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) is affecting younger children as well, he said.
The difference in strains of influenza are a difference in symptoms, Scott said.
“Some are more upper respiratory, sore muscle aches, some are gastrointestinal related,” he said. “They are all cousins and kind of do the same thing.”
The typical flu case lasts five to seven days, and the only thing that really helps is time, he said.
“There is not a big cure for it, just treat symptoms, drink plenty of fluids, take medications such as Tylenol for the symptoms. Antibiotics aren’t really going to help a viral illness.”
Sometimes waiting rooms become really backed up because “everybody wants to get better today,” he said. “But they will be just as well off resting” at home.
Staying away from the public where viruses can be easily picked up or transmitted, such as hospital and doctor’s office waiting rooms, can help prevent contracting the virus. Other preventive measures such as “good hand washing, turning your head and sneezing into your elbow, and avoiding crowded places.”
According to Associated Press reports, suspected flu cases have increased in five Southern states. The primary strain of flu seems to make people sicker than other types and is especially hard on older citizens.
"My advice is: Get the (flu) vaccine now," said Dr. James Steinberg, an Emory University infectious diseases specialist.
Flu vaccinations are recommended for everyone age 6 months and older. Symptoms can include fever, cough, runny nose, headaches, body aches and fatigue. Some people also suffer vomiting and diarrhea, and some develop pneumonia or other severe complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Southeast Health District offers the following tips to avoid the flu:

•    Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash afterwards.
•     Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
•    Try to avoid close contact with sick people. If you get sick, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
•    Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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