In these times we are all concerned about the flu. We have seen a sharp increase in the number of flu cases locally and throughout the country in recent weeks. Health authorities are estimating it will be a difficult winter this year with more than the usual number of cases of flu. We must all be informed and do our part to minimize the impact of this potential problem. We at Kane County Clinic and Hospital have been carefully monitoring the situation and would like to pass along some information to our local community.

Physicians and hospitals are appropriately anxious regarding their ability to deal with a potentially huge influx of patients. Not only is there the usual threat of the routine flu, we now have the added challenge of dealing with the novel influenza A (H1N1), commonly called the swine flu. 

This novel influenza A is a new flu virus that first caused illness in Mexico and moved to the United States in March and April of this year. There were sporadic cases throughout the summer, which is unusual for regular seasonal influenza, and is now increasing its attack rate. It is important to understand the novel influenza A is acting like a regular influenza illness; the vast majority of people are recovering in about a week. While it is true people have died of this illness, people die every year of regular seasonal flu. This is not some “killer” virus that is out to get us all.

Novel influenza A is also producing the same types of symptoms as regular seasonal flu, namely fever, body aches, headaches, chills, fatigue, cough and sore throat. Unlike usual seasonal flu, many people are also reporting nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea. There is an overlap between symptoms of influenza and that of regular upper respiratory infections.

 In the former, fever, chills and body aches are the predominant symptoms, while in the latter there is more nasal and sinus congestion and wet cough. It is thought novel influenza A spreads in the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread, mainly through coughs and sneezes of people who are sick with the virus, but it may also be spread by touching infected objects and then touching your nose or mouth. 

Therefore, making your own timely diagnosis and in staying out of the public domain is a key element in containing this virus. In our present setting of a flu epidemic, anybody who is mild to moderately ill with fever and body aches should stay home in relative isolation to promote their own recovery, as well as to prevent spread of the disease, and finally to not overburden the health care system. 

While antiviral medications are available, they must be started very early in the course of the illness, and even then can only be expected to decrease the length of the illness by one day and possibly decrease the severity.  In this epidemic situation, these medications will likely be used only for patients needing hospitalization.

Influenza is a respiratory illness that can produce serious illness by causing a viral pneumonia. One should worry if they become increasingly unable to breathe and get progressively sick and weak. This usually occurs in individuals with pre-existing respiratory problems like asthma, COPD, or even significant obesity. In such situations, individuals may certainly seek medical help, but be advised Kane County Hospital has limited resources for the management of intensive of respiratory illness.

 If you or a loved one is in the hospital please remember these hospital related restrictions:

1. No visitors under 14 years of age.

2. No sick visitors.

3. Patients and visitors alike should wear a mask.

4. Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper sleeve.

The most important strategy for controlling this epidemic is the flu vaccine. Everyone should receive the usual seasonal flu vaccine, plus the novel influenza A vaccine, although these vaccines are in limited supply. The Southwest Utah Public Health Department has the following guidelines for the H1N1 vaccine distribution.

Flu Mist 

•Children two-four years of age

•Parents of infants - six months of age

•Health care workers - under 50

Shots            

•Health care workers - over 50 in high-risk work areas

•Children six months - four years

•High-risk children (heart, lung, diabetes, kidney disease)

•Pregnant women

These recommendations are not meant to discriminate against the elderly, but it turns out that the novel influenza A is less likely to attack individuals over 65 years of age as they seem to have a greater natural immunity. These five groups comprise about 160 million people, about half the U.S. population. The CDC does not expect there will be a shortage of novel H1N1 vaccine, but availability and demand can be unpredictable, so there is some possibility that initially the vaccine will be available only in limited quantities.

A final word on preparedness, every household should have the following items:

1. Disposable tissues

2. Liquid soap

3. Paper towels

4. Alcohol-gel and clean it with at least 60% alcohol

5. A thermometer

6. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil)

7. Fluids for replacement (juices, soda, soup, Jello) 

Electrolyte replacement recipe:

two quarts water, one tsp. baking soda, one tsp. salt, seven tbls. sugar

May add one packet sugar free Koolaid for taste

8. Cleaner and disinfectant for surfaces (one part bleach to 10 parts water)

9. Have a plan ready for care if your children cannot go to school

10. Have a plan ready if you cannot go to work

Working together, with care and concern for all, is always the best way to proceed. Kane County Clinic and Hospital will be here to help.