This year’s flu season is considered “moderately severe.”
CDC data as of the end of last week showed widespread activity in all 49 states (Hawaii is the exception). It is unusual to have widespread activity in so many different places at the same time.
Most cases are of the Influenza A strain H3 N2, for which this year’s flu vaccine was only an estimated 10-30% effective.
The Influenza B strain usually shows up later in the season, is rarer and usually causes a less severe illness. The Boca Grande Health Clinic had its first positive Influenza A test the week before Christmas and its first positive Influenza B test just last week.
The flu vaccine offers good protection against the B strains. (The positive test was in someone who had not gotten the vaccine this year).
Many people have been hospitalized and have died from influenza this year, especially at the ends of the age spectrum (under 2 years old and over 65 years old).
There is a rapid, in office test for influenza, but the labs providing the test have run out and they are on backorder! Nevertheless, if symptoms and exam are suggestive of influenza infection, treatment can be prescribed if it’s in the right time frame.
There is a treatment for influenza called Tamiflu. Tamiflu can make the symptoms less severe and the duration of the illness shorter if started within the first 1-2 days of the illness.
Is it still worthwhile to get the vaccine? Yes! It’s best to be vaccinated in October as it takes about 2 weeks to develop immunity, but Flu Season and the spreading of the virus will continue through March so if you haven’t been vaccinated, there’s still time. Vaccination won’t prevent the flu, but generally will make the course less severe.
The Florida Department of Health recommends:
Sick people should stay home until fever-free for at least 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication) and that all people use good handwashing practices.
Those who have not been vaccinated should get vaccinated as soon as possible. Though flu vaccines can vary in effectiveness from season to season, flu vaccines are safe and are the best way to prevent influenza infection and serious complications.
Dr Lauren Hana, Medical Director, Boca Grande Health Clinic
The Clinic saw its first test positive case of Influenza A this week.
So this is a good time to review some “flu facts”.
The influenza virus, “the flu”, causes a respiratory illness that can be severe in those younger than 2, over 65, pregnant women and those with other underlying chronic illnesses. It generally does not include gastrointestinal symptoms and what people often call “the flu” or “the stomach flu” is really a different group of viruses that affect the stomach and small intestine and NOT the INFLUENZA virus (for which we get a vaccine- a “flu shot”).
Confusing, I know!
How can you tell the “flu” from a “cold”?
It’s difficult since they are both caused by viruses, but in general, symptoms of a cold are less severe and include runny or stuffy nose and sore throat. Flu symptoms tend to be more severe and in addition to the symptoms previously mentioned, tend to include headache, fever, cough, joint and muscle aches and fatigue.
Who should get a flu shot?
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommends a flu shot for everyone 6 months old and older unless they are allergic.
It is recommended that those over 65 get a little stronger version.
This year’s vaccine is expected to have good activity against the H1N1 Influenza A strain and against Influenza B and only fair activity against the H3N2 Influenza A strain. They are never perfect and never a guarantee, but recommended nonetheless.
Besides getting a flu shot, what else can I do to protect myself?
Wash your hands!
Stay away from sick people!
Stay away from people if YOU are sick! (Stay home from school or work if you have a fever)
Cover your cough (if you have one) and then- Wash your hands!
See your doctor promptly if you develop flu symptoms.
What can I do if I get the flu?
Treatment is recommended for those at risk to develop complications or at risk to develop severe illness (see the groups mentioned above) if the diagnosis can be made within the first 48-72 hours of the start of symptoms. This treatment is called Tamiflu and you take it for 5 days. It can also be used in a prevention dose for those at risk who have a KNOWN exposure to a close contact that has tested positive for influenza.
Your doctor can do a quick test in the office to check for influenza that requires a Qtip nose swab.
Others not at risk for severe illness or complications or those diagnosed AFTER 3 days of illness, are not likely to benefit from Tamiflu treatment. The treatment for this group is only treatment of the symptoms with over the counter medications for pain and fever, decongestants and cough remedies.
Treatment of all cases should include a lot of rest and plenty of oral fluids.
The highest Influenza activity this week was in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina.
So as all of our seasonal visitors descend on Boca Grande; protect yourself and get a flu shot!
For more information please check out the CDC and Florida Department of Health websites at:
Please note: the Boca Grande Health Clinic has influenza vaccine available for adults and high dose vaccine for those over 65, but does not carry influenza vaccine for children. Please contact your local pediatrician for availability of influenza vaccine for those under 18 years old.
Dr. Lauren Hana
Boca Grande Health Clinic
I have certainly enjoyed this past year at the Boca Grande Health Clinic and I have to admit; it seemed to fly by! I am excited to take on the challenging role of medical director.
I would like to express many thanks to Dr. Jeff Humbarger for his 6 years of service to our clinic and community and wish him the best of luck with his future endeavors.
Thanks to the generosity of our community through our Foundation, we have been busy during the summer season renovating our exam rooms to provide a more comfortable and personalized experience for our patients. We greatly value the leadership and guidance of our Board, as well as the support of our Foundation. Without their invaluable contributions, we would not be able to provide this high level of care and service to our patients and our community.
We are dedicated to providing the best and most up to date care to our patients, be they residents, workers or visitors to the Island. We are also working hard to maximize the value, quality and safety in the delivery of that care. We are enhancing our networking and communication through working closely, and in conjunction with, all services involved in your care; from the inpatient hospitalist doctors and emergency room physicians to the specialists on consult (be they local or your out of state doctors) as well as your home health care team of nurses and therapists to always be our patients’ advocate and facilitate smooth and safe transitions for those times when these additional services may be required. We are striving to provide a personal connection with visits as ambassadors of the Boca Grande Health Clinic to the local emergency departments and hospitals as well as visiting with some of the specialists in our referral base. We are lucky to have more and more resources available to us, like our affiliation with Healthnetwork, to help guide our patients to the best in procedural and specialty care.
We are collaborating with the Boca Grande Community Center in organizing interesting and educational programs for this coming fall and winter, including lectures in cardiology and an interactive panel discussion in neurology.
Myself and the entire staff pride ourselves in providing the most compassionate care and making our clinic a welcome place to visit whether for ongoing care of a chronic condition, preventative and well care, or a more urgent or sick visit. Please know that we are available 24/7 for you.
We are proud to be your partner in helping you reach your wellness goals and are looking forward to seeing everyone return for the coming season.
Dr. Lauren Hana
Clinic news from Boca Grande has been a mixture of excitement and sadness. Dr. Gordon Nidiffer and Mr. John Sielert are retiring after long stints serving the community. Although they cannot be replaced, we have after extensive search processes, hired Dr. Lauren Hana and Mrs. Hilja Bilodeau.
Dr. Hana is an Internist, recently practicing at the University of Florida, but with years of private practice experience in Kankakee, IL. She starts full time at BGHC on July 11th.
Mrs. Biladeau is a practice administrator from Cohasset, MA, who brings extensive experience to our CEO position. We look forward to a smooth transition.
Of course the saddest news is that The Island Doctor, Hank Wright has passed away. His charm, wit and caring will be missed by all who had the great fortune to know him.
In other health related news, Venice Regional Bayfront Hospital and Englewood Community Hospital have hired new CEOs. Sarasota Memorial’s bid to build a satellite hospital off of Laurel Rd. has been rejected by the state. All of the local hospitals are recruiting new, well-trained staff, primarily specialists. We are in the process of vetting these new doctors to increase our pool of referral doctors.
Update on Zika:
To date there have been 206 pregnant women with lab evidence of Zika infection in the US, and 166 reported from US territories. (The latter number seems low to me.) There have been 691 total Zika Virus infections reported in the US and 1305 cases in US territories.
91 cases have been reported in the State of Florida, limited to 15 counties, and all have been travel related. 5 cases have occurred in pregnant women. There have been no cases of Zika Virus Disease contracted from mosquitos in the continental US.
Meanwhile the CDC has recently published a Draft Interim Response Plan and the US Congress dithers instead of voting on funding for Zika control, vaccine and treatment.
Recent research has found that pregnant women infected late in pregnancy have little risk of their babies having birth defects. Women infected early in pregnancy have the greatest risk. Even women who have no symptoms of their Zika infection can have babies born with microcephaly or other birth defects. I’ve seen reports of male Olympic athletes planning to freeze sperm, but I have no guess as to why. Zika Virus can be detected in the semen for 2 months after infection, but then clears. Their partners would be better off abstaining or using condoms for 2 months after the Olympics.
There is no evidence that pesticides or any other chemicals are involved in the birth defects seen in South America and other countries. Zika Virus has been conclusively determined to be the cause and has been found in fetuses and placentas of infected mothers. Ignore rampant conspiracy theories, they are wrong.
The best way to prevent Zika infection is to prevent mosquito bites. First of all avoid traveling to countries or US territories where the infection is prevalent and is being transmitted by mosquitos. Second, avoid mosquito bites at home by using approved mosquito repellant and wearing long sleeves and pants. Third, allow no amount of standing water on your property. Even a bottle cap is large enough for an Aedes mosquito to lay her eggs. For more information and informative videos, visit the Florida Department of Health website. http://www.floridahealth.gov/
Prevent driving and boating accidents. Always wear your seat belt, don’t text and drive and don’t operate an automobile or boat while intoxicated.
Sun burn and long term UV ray exposure. Remember to wear sunscreen and reapply every hour or two, whenever you are out of doors. Prevent sunburns and skin cancers by covering up.
Dehydration and heatstroke. If you are outside and sweating be sure to drink plenty of fluids. A mixture of fluids with potassium and sodium and water is best, e.g. Gatorade and water. Heatstroke is a medical emergency. The body temperature is elevated, but the person is not sweating and is confused.
Avoid poison ivy. “Leaves of three let it be” is the watch phrase. Know how to recognize poison ivy and steer clear. If you are out trekking stay out of shrub areas or wear high boots and socks.
Food borne illness. Use coolers for any foods that contain animal products, including dairy and eggs. Bacteria can produce dangerous toxins that will make you sick. Do not eat raw animal products such as meats, poultry, fish or eggs. Keep raw products separate to avoid cross contamination. Discard all foods that have been left unrefrigerated, especially if in the sun, for more than two hours.
Ticks and Lyme Disease. Avoid tick-infested areas such as wooded areas or land with tall grass and weeds. Thoroughly check yourself and your children, pets or hiking partner for ticks. If you find a tick on your body, remove it immediately. Ticks rarely transmit disease if they are attached for less than four hours.