PMH Rural Clinic’s Dr. Hare Talks about the Seasonal Viruses Stalking Us –Part 2
In Part 1 of this story – which went viral I understand – Dr. Julie Hare of the Pocahontas Memorial Hospital’s Rural Health Clinic explained both what the flu and the RSV virus are and the symptoms of both. In today’s story she answers some questions about how long you will be sick, how to avoid contracting these viruses, what the treatment options are and can you get both of these viruses at the same time?
We started by asking her how long will you likely be ill.
“So RSV and the Flu are both viruses” Dr. Hare explains. “A lot of viruses take a fairly predictable course. “We usually say seven to ten days, but it can be up to two weeks, especially for anybody who has any sort of pre-existing medical condition where you’ve had a weakened immune system or where it’s really affected your respiratory system like with people with Asthma and have COPD you could be struggling with congestion and cough and needing treatment for weeks potentially, so again, it’s variable. A reasonably healthy person no more than two weeks would be its natural course for either of these viruses.”
What are the treatment options?
“For RSV there are none” answered Doctor Hare. “It’s really just a lot of supportive care and for those who have lung issues, we’re usually giving them breathing treatments and sometimes we’ll give the folks who have Asthmatic tendencies or older adults with COPD, steroids. Sometimes we’ll give antibiotics to certain people in those groups to prevent what we call secondary infection. When you fill up with a lot of congestion and you kind of stagnate air flow inside your lungs you can actually build up a bacterial load and then develop a bacterial pneumonia, so sometimes we are giving antibiotics as a preventative measure. Everybody knows that for Influenza there is something out there called Tamiflu and that is an anti-viral. There’s a whole slew of antivirals out there. This one is specifically approved for the treatment of Influenza. We do give that to young children and older adults who, again, we might have concerns about just because of their age or because of pre-existing medical conditions. I really try to talk to otherwise young, healthy people to see if they can’t support themselves at home. If they’re not totally severe – looking very toxic as we would say, to go home and just take time off and hydrate well and take immune supporting supplements . They usually get over it just fine. We usually have during a bad flu season a national shortage of Tamiflu and it is really important to minimize who really needs Tamiflu verses who probably really don’t but just want to get better faster. That might sound cruel but if you really think about anybody or certainly yourself. If you have very small children or elderly people you care about, you would probably want to see them get treated first before yourself. You might just have to put up with a handful of days of symptoms”
Any ideas on how to avoid getting any of these things?
“Yes, hand washing, that’s a drum that gets beat a lot in Medicine, but I don’t think that I can say it enough” Dr. Hare answered. “Hand washing and just good personal hygiene is a good way to cut down the pathogenic load you come in contact with –virus and bacteria- because certainly RSV and flu aren’t the only things that are circulating out there right now. The CDC says that Influenza is specifically spread in about a six foot radius from a given individual. So you know if you encounter somebody who looks really sick in say Wal-Mart, and they’re coughing and sneezing, you just want to give them a little space as you pass by them. Of course minimizing travel during this time, especially if we see Influenza worsen –which I suspect we will before the spring.
Be very aware of, again, personal hygiene, hand washing, keeping your hands away from your face. If you are sick and you have to go out, try to prevent your personal spread of your own germs. Coughing into your arm, tissues, hand sanitizer and certainly when you come into the clinic or the Hospital, we will ask you to wear a mask because, again, we are in confined spaces and that’s exactly how it spreads. I tell my patients, who are reluctant to take time off from work to go home and rest, the reason you are sick is because somebody who was didn’t stay home. Of Course, it’s not too late to get vaccinated either. We are definitely seeing good coverage with this year’s flu vaccine. You can get vaccinated anytime. It takes about two to four weeks to kick in and provide yourself active immune coverage. We recommend flu vaccine for anyone over the ages of six months and you do need to get vaccinated annually. The vaccine is modified almost every year.”
And Yes, Dr. Hare says you can have RSV and the flu at the same time, even two different types of flu at the same time. Be well my friends!