Health officials: This flu season not as bad as last

Monday, December 22, 2008

Health professionals say flu season may not hit as hard as it did last year, but there are still more than enough viruses and respiratory problems going around to keep doctors' offices busy this winter.

Dr. Anthony Keele of Cape Family Practice said he's still seeing a significant number of flu patients, but not as many as last year.

Cape Family Practice has treated several strep throat patients, but a majority of people have come in with viral or bacterial sinus infections, Keele said.

Keele, who sees between 80 and 100 patients per day, said he's been treating about 30 to 40 cases of respiratory infections a day lately.

"This year, there's so many numerous viruses going around," said Vanessa Landers, a public health nurse and communicable disease consultant with the Cape Girardeau Health Department.

Because people are forced to spend more time indoors, in warmer environments and close to each other, bacteria tends to spread faster, causing infection, Landers said.

Crystal Young, a nurse at Heartland Family Practice, said they see about 30 people with either bacterial or viral sinus infections per day.

Still, respiratory infections numbers are lower than last year, Young said. Heartland Family Practice has hardly seen any flu patients so far this year, where in 2007 the flu was widespread, Young said.

The easiest way to avoid getting sick, Landers said, is to use antibacterial hand soap and wash hands as frequently as possible.

"A good hand washing will keep a lot of things out of your system," Landers said.

She recommended the "elbow method" of coughing, or coughing into the crook of your elbow, to keep from spreading germs.

"You go to a shopping center, you're probably not just going to be leaving with packages and a big bill, you're probably leaving having been exposed to something," Landers said.

bdicosmo@semissourian.com

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