Source: Sherman Publications

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Clarkston hit hard by long flu season

by Mary Keck

January 30, 2013

Local healthcare facilities have been inundated with sick Clarkstonites this flu season, and although the worst may be over, residents may be coughing and sneezing their way into the spring.

"There's been a tremendous number of cases," said Doctor Tim O'Neill of Clarkston Medical Group.

This year's most troublesome flu virus is called H3N2. While H3N2 is not a new strain, the early start of the flu season has kept medical facilities busier than usual. Activity in "urgent care has increased thirty percent," said O'Neill.

The early onset of flu season coupled with the large number of infected patients has kept doctors and nurses at Clarkston Medical Group hopping. Cases of flu started showing up before the holidays, but typically the season begins right around now, he explained.

There is some good news on the horizon, though. O'Neill thinks cases of the flu have likely reached their peak; however, the flu season probably won't wind down until around March.

Despite the large number of flu cases he's seen, O'Neill points out that it would be much worse if so many people hadn't already been vaccinated. He encourages everyone who hasn't gotten a flu shot to do so. "It's safe, and it works," he said.

Besides getting vaccinated, washing your hands well, drinking fluids, and simply taking care of yourself to be sure your body isn't run down are good ways to avoid coming down with H3N2.

If you do get sick with the flu, O'Neill says, "stay home." Quarantining yourself will help prevent others from catching it. Patients who recognize they have the flu should talk to their doctor who might prescribe Tamiflu, if H3N2 is caught within the first 48 hours. O'Neill recommends rotating Motrin and Tylenol to relieve your symptoms. Additionally, staying well hydrated will ensure a speedy recovery.

Symptoms of H3N2 include, "sudden onset of fever, muscle aches, sore throat, head aches, and coughing," he said. Most with flu will feel awful for about 3 to 4 days and then they'll just feel like they have a really bad cold for about a week, O'Neill described.

While fatal cases of flu are rare, O'Neill warns that the very young and very old or people with chronic illnesses are at the highest risk.

Most drug stores like CVS and Walgreens offer flu vaccinations, and the Oakland County Health Department (OCHD) gives flu shots for $15. They also offer vaccines free for children under 18 without insurance or whose insurance doesn't cover the flu shot. The OCHD has nurses on call Monday through Friday 8:30 to 5:00 p.m. Call 1-800-848-5533 or email if you have questions.