Friday, January 4, 2013

Flu-like virus sweeps valley

Physician reports about 50 new cases per day

Express Staff Writer

An unidentified, flu-like viral illness has been replicating its way across the Wood River Valley for some two weeks, causing people to develop symptoms that include high fevers, sore throats and lingering dry coughs, but generally nothing more serious.

“It’s definitely acting like influenza,” said Dr. Julie Lyons with St. Luke’s Clinic in Hailey, who said patients have reported up to 103-degree fevers lasting for up to five days and dry coughs lasting for up to two weeks. Lyons said other symptoms include body aches, chills, red eyes and—especially among children—mild diarrhea.

“We’ve been running influenza tests, but they’ve all been coming back negative,” she said. “If it’s not influenza, it’s a related virus.”

Lyons said she’s treated about five to 10 new cases of the illness per day for about the past two weeks. Including cases treated by other St. Luke’s physicians, she predicts that there have been about 50 new cases per day valleywide during that time period.

“It’s a highly contagious virus,” she said.

Lyons added that she’s heard reports of people contracting a similar illness in both Boise and Twin Falls.

“The best ways to prevent the illness from spreading are to wash your hands often with soap, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds, and don’t cough and sneeze on people!” she said. “People are most contagious during the first few days. They should stay at home until their fever breaks.”

Lyons recommends that in addition to practicing good personal hygiene, people get flu shots to help stop the illness’s spread. She said shots are available at any of the valley’s St. Luke’s clinics, at the South Central District Health Department in Bellevue or at any of the local pharmacies.

“We’re still recommending flu shots because if you haven’t gotten the illness yet, it may help prevent you from getting it or may decrease the severity of the symptoms,” she said. “If you have already gotten the illness, the shot can help protect you from other strains of flu. Ideally, the more people who get the flu shot, the healthier our community is.”

Lyon’s said people cannot contract the flu from the shot.

For treatment of the illness’ symptoms, Lyons recommends Tylenol or ibuprofen to help keep the fever down and to help with body aches. She said people can try over-the-counter cough medicine to soothe sore throats, but she prefers to use honey as long as the patient is at least a year old.

“A lot of people come into the clinic and we say, ‘Yup, it’s just a virus and you have to wait it out,’” she said. “However, if the fever doesn’t break in five days or if you have difficulty breathing, seek medical attention.”

For more information, call the St. Luke’s Family Medicine Clinic in Hailey at 788-3434.

Brennan Rego:

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