Coughs and sniffles are common for January, but doctors and medical personnel across Sarpy County are cautioning prospective patients to be wary of a high fever, body aches and a persistent cough.
Physicians from clinics in La Vista, Bellevue and Gretna said they are seeing a typical flu season, encouraging those with symptoms to get tested quickly and keep basic preventative practices to decrease further spread.
“We probably see one to two confirmed cases daily,” Dr. Steph Erickson said.
Erickson operates a family practice out of the Alegent Creighton Primary Care Clinic in La Vista. She said the clinic receives 12 to 15 phone calls a day in regard to flu-like symptoms.
While many people confuse typical seasonal symptoms, such as a runny nose, for the flu, she said the three most recognized symptoms are a high temperature, an aching body and a persistent, painful cough.
For those who have these symptoms, Erickson said it is important to see your doctor or visit a clinic within the first two days to treat the influenza.
Otherwise, she said, the sickness will have to run its course. Typically the flu is a three day illness. However, the cough can remain.
“A cough can last anywhere from three to six weeks,” she said.
Once someone gets past the aches and fever, Erickson said, the patient is cleared to return to work or school. However, she urged people to be mindful of possible secondary infections, which are likely to follow the flu.
Erickson said generally most healthy individuals can treat flu symptoms with ibuprofen or acetaminophen, rest and plenty of fluids. But, after the flu, she said they should still get the flu shot.
“It is never too late to get your flu shot,” she said.
It is especially important for those who are in the high-target population to get this shot, she said.
This population consists of those who live in nursing homes, people older than 65, pregnant woman and a variety of conditions, such as diabetes or anything that can suppress the immune system.
Another group who doctors say should always get the flu shot are children and teenagers, especially with national reports of the H1N1 virus strain, commonly known as swine flu.
Dr. Katie Vollmuth, a pediatrician at the Alegent Creighton Clinic in Gretna, said it is important for not only children to get the flu shot, but their caretakers as well in order to further protect children from the risk of the flu.
“This particular type does tend to the younger generation,” Vollmuth said of H1N1.
Further prevention can be taken with common sense practices, she said, such as good hand washing practices and avoiding touches to the face.
“Influenza is spread through droplets or contact,” she said.
She said her clinic has seen a typical number of people come in with flu-like symptoms, but did not have an accurate number as it is normal not to test an individual if they come in after having the symptoms for more than three days, she again urged those with symptoms to get treated earlier, especially those with pre-existing medical conditions.
“The sooner you can come in and test positive, the sooner you can be treated,” she said.
Vollmuth said she also encourages people to get the flu shot, even if they’ve already had the flu recently, because flu season lasts through March and there are multiple trains of the flu.
For those who are unsure if they are dealing with influenza or just seasonal sickness, a unique feature of influenza is a sudden onset.
“With influenza, you feel like a truck hit you,” said Chrissy Svoboda, a certified physician’s assistant with Bellevue Urgent Care.
Bellevue Urgent Care has seen a large number of Influenza A, but has also seen a surprisingly large number of allergy-like symptoms, Svoboda said. Again, the big tell for the flu is the three symptoms of fever, aches and a cough.
Svoboda echoed the sentiment of getting the flu shot.
“Get vaccinated, if not for yourself, for those around you,” she said.
The flu recently claimed the life of an 80 year-old woman in Douglas County, although Svoboda said fatalities typically have an underlying disease or issue.
“As long as you’re smart about it, people typically bounce back and have no issues with it,” she said.