November 27, 2013 - Flu season is upon us.
Although cases reported in Oakland County have been sporadic and minimal, Dr. Tim O'Neil said in addition to some flu cases, the Clarkston Medical Group has also seen some patients with Hand, foot and mouth disease.
Hand, foot and mouth syndrome is a virus causing blister-like sores in the mouth, throat, on the feet and hands.
With an incubation period of three to seven days, the Hand, foot and mouth infection is spread via contact with bodily fluids from a person with the illness.
Often lasting five to seven days, there is a vaccination for Hand, foot and mouth, but there is no treatment besides treating symptoms which include loss of appetite, fever, headache, a rash with small blisters and a sore throat with sores in the mouth and throat.
The highly contagious viral infection often strikes young children, under 10 years of age, and most often spreads in places children gather like day care centers.
Although less likely teens and adults can catch Hand-Foot and Mouth too.
An over the counter pain reliever can be used to treat fever with many illnesses, products containing aspirin should never be given to children under the age of 12 that have a virus.
Outbreaks of Hand, foot and mouth occur less regularly, the flu bug comes around every year beginning in the fall season. Medical officials reported the first flu cases to the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) at the end of October.
As of Nov., 16 health officials documented minimal or localized influenza-like illness activity in most U.S states. Moderate influenza rates were reported in Texas while a highest number of cases documented in Mississippi. A few states reported no influenza activity.
Agencies like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and MDCH closely monitor infectious disease outbreaks like influenza. This year the CDC is monitoring strains like H1N1 or the "Bird Flu" and influenza A and influenza B strains.
Officials also monitor for strains that have not appeared yet.
MDCH said influenza rates are about the same as the 2012 flu season.
"We have seen isolated cases of influenza in Clarkston," said O'Neil.
Another virus is going around is really nothing major at this time," he said. "It is a bad cold with a lot of drainage and a lot of coughing.
When kids go get back to school is when many illnesses seem to spread. "
O'Neil said a couple of years ago a whole bunch of students got the flu, causing school to be cancelled.
According to the CDC, the flu shot is the single most important thing you can do to prevent the flu. Officials also highly recommend patients most likely to be harder hit by bugs get the shot.
The most vulnerable population is the children under five years of age, elderly patients and those with suppressed immune systems or other illness.
Getting a flu shot will protect against certain strains of influenza, but it does not mean you are protected against the type of strains going around that were not in the vaccine.
If a patient gets a shot or not, good habits and hygiene always helps ward off many illnesses.
"One of the single biggest things you can do is wash your hands," said O'Neil.
Tips to stay healthy
-Avoid close contact with people showing signs of illness. To prevent an illness, If you are sick, staying away from others who are healthy will help prevent the spread.
-If you must cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose, but do it with your forearm and not your hand.
-Wash hands frequently especially during flu season. The CDC recommends using an alcohol based hand sanitizer if you cannot wash with soap and water.
-Germs can spread fast anytime you touch things that someone sick has touched. That's why it is important not after you touch anything to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
-If someone at work or home is sick be sure to clean surfaces with a disinfectant product to kill the germs.
-With any illness it's important to watch out for dehydration. Signs of dehydration include decreased and dark urine production, dry skin. With any illness if a patient shows any sign of dehydration it is important to seek medical attention immediately.
-Get plenty of sleep, eat well, stay active and manage stress and you can stay healthy year-round.
Staff writer covering Independence Township and Clarkston area.