Submitted by Riley Black, RN, County Health Nurse
Over the last few weeks, the emergence of several high-profile diseases has made its way through the schools, your workplace, and perhaps, your home. Lincoln County Public Health (LCPH) has been tracking these illnesses closely and has some advice for the citizens in Lincoln County communities.
This is the time of year where many illnesses begin circulating through a community due to people congregating indoors and closely with a lot of people. These conditions help to spread illness. The most prevalent diseases that LCPH is currently monitoring include Pertussis, Influenza, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), Norovirus, and Strep Throat.
Although we are beginning to see an increase in these illnesses, it is not un-expected and is not cause for alarm. LCPH predicts these diseases to be more prevalent this time of year and we encourage the average citizen to take steps to avoid spreading it or becoming sick.
Influenza and RSV are severe respiratory illnesses that are very dangerous for young children, pregnant women, and the elderly. These diseases are caused by a virus which means antibiotics are not effective in treating or curing these infections. These illnesses can be tested for at your doctor’s office but the best thing you can do is manage the symptoms with rest, fluids, and over the counter medicine.
Norovirus is an intestinal illness that causes violent vomiting and diarrhea. Since this is a virus, once again, antibiotics are not effective in treating this illness. Fluids and rest are about all you can do to manage this illness. It is critically important to stay home from school or work for an additional 2 days after symptoms resolve or you may be passing this illness on.
Pertussis (Whooping Cough) is a severe respiratory illness that is caused by bacteria. Pertussis causes violent coughing that can last for weeks or more and cause post-cough vomiting, difficulty breathing, pulled muscles, and broken ribs. Pertussis is very infectious and deadly for young children and pregnant women. Pertussis should be treated immediately with antibiotics and those who live in the household or have been in close contact with someone positive with Pertussis should also receive antibiotics, regardless if symptoms exists. A test is available at your doctor’s office to detect the presence of Pertussis.
Strep throat is an infection of the upper airway and throat caused by bacteria. Strep throat is typically very painful making it hard to eat or drink. Strep throat can be treated with antibiotics and a test is available at your doctor’s office.
With any disease, LCPH advises that you consult a physician if you are not improving or your illness worsens.
It is also important to note that providers have been reporting that these diseases may not be presenting as typical of the illness, which can make diagnosing an illness more difficult. Because of this, LCPH encourages testing for the presence of disease through confirmation lab testing. This also helps in tracking infectious patients to get accurate numbers that help us assess how widespread the diseases are.
LCPH encourages anyone who is ill to stay home from school, daycare, and work to avoid spreading diseases on to others. Vaccines are available for Pertussis and Influenza and although no vaccine is a guarantee that you won’t get sick, they are helpful in reducing the severity and transmission of disease.
The single most effective thing you can do to prevent getting sick is to wash your hands, a lot! Always wash after using the bathroom, before eating, before cooking, and after being in public places like stores, restaurants, casinos, and churches. It is even recommended to carry travel size hand sanitizer with you to use between handwashing, however, hand sanitizer is not a replacement for handwashing.
Please do your part in preventing and spreading illness this season. Contact LCPH at (406) 283-2447 for more information.