Cold and flu season extends along with the winter weather

In theory, we are nearing the end of the peak cold and flu season. But the viruses and bacteria did not seem to get the message.

Germs continue to spread around Marion County. Stomach flu, colds, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza germs are sticking around.

Hillsboro Community Medi?cal Center laboratory now has influenza and RSV tests available. The test results help your physician prescribe the proper treatments for your illness.

Influenza, commonly called ?the flu,? is caused by the influenza virus, which infects the respiratory tract (nose, throat, lungs).

Unlike many other viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, the flu causes severe illness and life-threatening complications in many people.

Influenza is a respiratory illness. Symptoms of flu include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and muscle aches.

Children can have additional gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, but these symptoms are uncommon in adults.

Although the term ?stomach flu? is sometimes used to describe vomiting, nausea or diarrhea, these illnesses are caused by certain other viruses, bacteria, or possibly parasites, and are rarely related to influenza.

How do you find out if you have the flu?

It is difficult to distinguish the flu from other viral or bacterial causes of respiratory illnesses on the basis of symptoms alone. A test can confirm that an illness is influenza if the patient is tested within the first two to three days after symptoms begin.

HCMC laboratory can test for influenza. It is a nasal swab test which requires a doctor?s order. Test results are available within an hour. In addition, a doctor?s examination may be needed to determine whether a person has another infection that is a complication of influenza.

The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year, but good health habits like covering your cough and washing your hands often can help prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu.

There also are flu antiviral drugs that can be used to treat and prevent the flu.

RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia among infants and children under 1 year of age.

Illness begins most frequently with fever, runny nose, cough, and sometimes wheezing. Most children recover from illness in 8 to 15 days. The majority of children hospitalized for RSV infection are under 6 months of age.

Diagnosis of RSV infection can be made by a lab test. The test is available at the HCMC lab with a physician?s order.

Children under the age of 5 are tested by a nasal swab, with test results back within an hour

For children with mild RSV, no specific treatment is necessary other than the treatment of symptoms (e.g., acetaminophen to reduce fever). Children with severe disease may require oxygen therapy and sometimes mechanical ventilation.

Frequent handwashing and not sharing items such as cups, glasses, and utensils with persons who have RSV illness should decrease the spread of virus to others.

Excluding children with colds or other respiratory illnesses (without fever) who are well enough to attend child care or school settings will probably not decrease the transmission of RSV, since it is often spread in the early stages of illness.

You can reduce your chances of catching the cold or flu

Here are some tips for precent influenza, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

1. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.

2. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.

3. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.

4. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.

5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

6. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

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