As if the return of arctic weather isn’t bad enough, it appears a growing number of people are suffering with chills of another kind from the flu.
Local doctors said they’re seeing significant increases in cold viruses among their patients, as well as a return of the H1N1 strain of influenza, which was commonly referred to as swine flu several years ago. While many people might confuse the symptoms and think they’ve just come down with a bad cold, experts say they can actually notice a difference in those who have the flu.
“It’s the overall whole body sick, just can’t get out of bed. When I come into the exam room, these people, they’re lying down, they’re washed out, they’re very ill and usually high fever,” said Dr. Denise Bobovnyik. “The general public doesn’t understand how sick one can get from this flu. I finally realize why in 1918 people died from the flu.”
She said she has seen 10 flu cases in just the past several weeks.
“That’s a lot. I would say there are some years I don’t see 10 in a year,” Bobovnyik said.
She said while the flu often targets the very young and the elderly, she’s also seeing a jump in young adults who might otherwise be fairly healthy, but are catching the flu from others at work or school.
To keep the flu from spreading, doctors tell people who are sick to stay home.
“If you’re running a fever at all, the best thing to do is stay in. Just isolate yourself. Keep away from the workforce, the school yard, every place. Keep away from other people and just stay at home until you’re at least 24 hours without a fever,” said Dr. Tom Albani.
And while cold and flu season may boost the sales of antibacterial soaps and lotions, Dr. Albani thinks they may actually do more harm.
“They’ve been doing studies on anti-bacterial soaps and the question about whether that’s increasing resistance of those germs to the antibiotics we use to kill them,” Albani said.
And while doctors say most of their cases involve cold viruses, they also said it’s not uncommon for patients to come down with two or three viruses, one right after the other, making their illness drag on for weeks at a time without relief.
Unfortunately, while patients can treat some cold and flu symptoms, like a fever, with Tylenol or similar remedies, antibiotics won’t do any good against a virus.
“Upper respiratory things last five to 14 days and unless you’re in horrible distress, we try to have you ride it out,” Dr. Bobovnyik said.