Pediatricians Matilda Garcia and Andrew Haug said the flu season arrived late in the Rim Country, but when it hit, it hit hard. It wasn’t until late January or early February they started seeing cases. Since then, they have run about 200 flu test kits and had 90 percent come back positive.
Garcia said she usually starts seeing her first flu cases in November or December.
The most significant complications she is seeing with this flu are ear infections and bronchopneumonia. In fact, she said she and Haug have diagnosed five to 10 cases of bronchopneumonia each week during the last month.
Many infants are also coming in with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), which presents like asthma, Garcia said. “The little ones can become quite ill. We have even had to send some home on oxygen. They’re immune compromised due to lack of exposure (to different flu viruses and other bugs),” she said.
Garcia said watch children for bad colds with high fever lasting more than three days and all-over body aches. She said a high fever is 103 degrees or more. The two pediatricians have been prescribing Tamiflu. It must be taken within 48 hours of a patient’s first flu symptoms to be effective, Haug said. “It works by limiting how much the virus can replicate.” With less replication, a patient will most likely have a flu of shorter duration, with less severe symptoms and/or complications, he said. The same results are likely if someone gets the flu who was given a flu vaccine, Haug said.
Flu shots taken now can still help. “They are safe enough for pregnant women,” Haug said.
“The shots can be given to infants as young as six months old,” Garcia added.
She said regular and thorough handwashing is also a good preventative measure.
Mike Clark, principal at Pine Elementary School reports the worst day for attendance due to the flu and respiratory illnesses was Feb. 22. Clark said the small school had 33 students and five staff absent with illness.
Since Oct. 1, 2010 — which is generally considered the start of the flu season — the Payson Regional Medical Center has had five admissions for the flu from its emergency room and 37 flu diagnoses.
“These numbers represent actual diagnoses for only the flu,” said Bo Larson, marketing director for PRMC. “Many patients come in with pneumonia or asthma, which was exasperated by flu, but those cases would not be diagnosed as flu. Flu is confirmed with a lab test. Generally it is 8:1 — for every one flu case, there are many more undiagnosed flu cases. It is hard to tell if these numbers are normal or not. The economy keeps a lot of people away from the ER if they feel they only have the flu.”