Knox County, Missouri - Local health authority is reporting confirmed cases of Influenza A and B the week of April 23rd 2014. Lori Moots-Clair, Administrator with the health department reports " one confirmed influenza A, one confirmed influenza B and three non-typed influenzas." Moots-Clair feels confident that the B strain is moving rapidly through familial contacts of the influenza B case, and will be seen in close contacts in the future days. She also reports that "although health department officials expect to see the highest levels of influenza in February and March, it is not impossible to see these late season outbreaks". She also cautions that "with the late season comes more strain drift, and with that we will see even immunized individuals ill, particularly those that are immuno compromised".
When talking about the flu (influenza), the health department is referring to the highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the flu viruses. This respiratory disease can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold or allergies, it usually comes on suddenly and can have the following symptoms: fever (usually high), headache, extreme tiredness, a dry cough, a sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, and sometimes stomach symptoms (usually more common in children).
Persons more prone to serious complications from the flu include those over age 65, those that are very young (less than 6 months cannot be vaccinated), pregnant women, and those with chronic medical conditions (ex. Diabetes, asthma). The flu can lead to pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infection and many more respiratory tract complications. After the flu virus enters the body you may start to develop symptoms within 1-4 days. Healthy adults may be able to spread the infection from 1 day prior to showing any symptoms up to 5 days after being sick. In addition, children may pass the virus for greater than 7 days. This means that you may believe you are well, when in fact you are still passing the virus to those you come in contact with.
The health department reminds the public that there are more than likely many cases of influenza in the county at this time, however often they are not tested. Should you obtain the flu virus; rest, drink plenty of fluids, avoid the use of alcohol and tobacco, and take medicine to relieve your flu symptoms, such as fever. Remember that your health care providers will typically treat your symptoms and not the flu itself, because it is a virus, making antibiotics useless. It is also important to never give aspirin to a child or teenager until you have spoken with your health care provider, because a rare but serious illness, known as Reye Syndrome, can occur.
Finally, Moots-Clair cautions the public that "particularly this time of year (close to the end of school, MAP testing period, Easter celebrations, Prom, and athletic events) parents and children alike are apt to rejoin activities before they are ready, or before their contacts are safe". To prevent the spread of the illness, practice good hand washing skills, always cough into your sleeve, sanitize everyday amenities (ex. Telephone, toys, work utensils, household equipment, etc.), and distance yourself from others during your ill period and up to 5 days after being sick. You should not be returning to school or work until you have been fever free without medication for 24 hours. With any questions, please contact the local health department.