For the week of January 13, 1999   thru January 19, 1999  

Flu bug wings its way to Idaho

Express Staff Writer

Coughing? Got the chills? Feeling feverish? If so, you could have the flu.

Flu season is upon us, and Idaho health officials have reported four cases of the flu in the state so far in 1999.

No confirmed cases of flu have appeared in Blaine County, but a few individuals have presented flu-like symptoms, according to Linda Johnson, senior public health nurse for Blaine County.

"I’m starting to hear reports from doctors that patients are coming in with high fever and respiratory problems that can be indicative of flu," Johnson said.

Flu is a winter-time respiratory disease caused by influenza virus, and it can be fatal. The month of January is notorious for flu, according to Johnson.

One reason flu rears in winter months, according to Cheryl Becker, nurse epidemician for the South Central District Health Department, is because more people congregate indoors, creating a higher probability of infection. Also, returning summer travelers can bring back influenza from their faraway vacation spots, she said.

All age groups are susceptible, but influenza is particularly dangerous for the elderly, those with immune problems, and individuals already suffering from asthma.

Health officials recommend flu shots for all individuals 65 years or older, residents of nursing homes and chronic care facilities, anyone with lung or cardiovascular disorders, any individual with a chronic metabolic disorder who was hospitalized within the past year, and children and teen-agers (6 months to 18 years), who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy.

"We gave out 1,000 flu shots to Blaine County residents in October," said Johnson.

The type of flu that circulates mutates constantly, resulting in the need for a modified vaccine every year.

The four cases of flu identified within Idaho were in Ada, Teton, Franklin and Bannock counties.

That number is expected to rise, according to assistant state epidemiologist Dr. Leslie Tengelsen.


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