Local health care providers prepare for coronavirus

Flu season just became a little more complicated. Local clinics are not only screening for those suffering from influenza type A and B, now protocols are in place for the coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China.

Dr. Mark Satterfield, Plumas County’s public health officer, reported Jan. 24 that Plumas District, Seneca and Eastern Plumas are participating in the effort.

“Everyone is dialed in,” Satterfield said.

Registered Nurse Donna Vaughan, who is Plumas District’s infection control coordinator, has worked with Plumas County Public Health, as well as the state office of health, to ensure that local health care providers know what to do.

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The coronavirus symptoms are similar to any other upper-respiratory infection, including runny nose, coughing, sore throat and sometimes a fever.

Which raises the question, how does one screen for the coronavirus at the height of the annual flu season.

“At this point it is determining where the patient has been,” said Satterfield, though he acknowledged that as the coronavirus spreads, the questions about where individuals have traveled might become more complicated.

Satterfield said that he had been pleased to see the aggressive approach taken to stop the spread of the virus in China and elsewhere. “It makes me more confident,” he said.

Seasonal flu

Meanwhile, Plumas County residents continue to fall victim to the seasonal flu.

“Two weeks ago we were seeing more type B influenza, but now we are seeing more type A,” Satterfield said.

That backs up the data collected by Plumas County Public Health, which in a statement provided earlier this month noted that type B was dominant.

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“The local clinics and hospitals submit weekly reports regarding how many patients were seen and how many patients had influenza-like illness,” the statement read. “Some clinics and hospitals do provide positive swab information, but that is not universally conducted. The schools submit the number of absences on a weekly basis.”

The information assists public health with monitoring the cycle of influenza in the county and assists in determining what assistance to give the public and health care providers.

Specific numbers are difficult to ascertain.

“The information received is not ‘hard’ conclusive data; therefore, it is only utilized internally,” the department said.

While Plumas is now transitioning from B to A, nationwide, the trend has reversed from type A to B.

Symptoms

Whether type A or B, the symptoms and treatment are similar. The following information is provided by Plumas County Public Health.

The flu is unpleasant for everyone, but is particularly dangerous for children under 5 years old, people over 50, pregnant women, and people with underlying health problems like COPD, heart disease or diabetes, where it can sometimes require hospitalization and be life threatening.

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When any of these higher risk individuals contracts the influenza virus, it’s important they be started on antiviral medications within one to two days. They should contact their healthcare provider to be seen promptly, and if necessary go to the emergency room. Patients are advised to put on a mask in the Emergency Department and avoid contact with other patients.

Symptoms of influenza include sudden onset of fever, cough or sore throat, and muscle and body aches. These are often accompanied by headache, runny or stuffy nose, profound fatigue, and sometimes nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

The first principle of treating the flu is to stay home from work, school or other public places until symptoms have resolved. Flu is readily passed from person to person through small droplets from coughs or sneezes or from objects we commonly touch like door knobs and grocery carts.

Drink lots of liquids (don’t worry about solids) and get plenty of rest. Aspirin should never be given to people under 18 years old experiencing the flu because it can, in rare cases, cause a serious disease called Reye’s syndrome. Remember to cover nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing and wash hands frequently or use an alcohol-based rub.

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Following these simple measures help:

– Wash your hands often with soap and water.

– Clean frequently the things you touch especially if other people touch them as well.

– Do not touch your face.

– Keep away from sick people.

– Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, use a tissue or your elbow.

– If you are sick or feel sick stay home!

It’s also not too late to get a “flu shot” (influenza immunization) to help prevent the flu.

The vaccine is offered at Plumas County Public Health clinics and most pharmacies and medical providers throughout the county, while supplies last.

FluMist (nasal vaccine) is not as effective as the shot, so get the shot if possible. The vaccine prevents many deaths each year and helps the community avoid missed work and school, not to mention the miserable experience of having the flu.

If you have questions, call your regular healthcare provider or Plumas County Public Health Agency at 283-6330 for more information.

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