What’s Going Around: Flu, strep throat, stomach bug

Lancaster General Health Physicians Roseville Pediatrics saw a sharp increase in the number of bronchiolitis cases in infants and young toddlers. While many cases of bronchiolitis are caused by a virus called respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, there are other viruses that cause it, too.

In all ages, they have seen a huge amount of viruses and colds, and with them secondary viral conjunctivitis, ear infections and, in older kids, sinusitis.

Roseville also saw an increase in pneumonia in the older school-aged and teenage groups compared to last week.

Strep throat frequency stayed pretty much the same as last week.

Dr. Joan Thode offered the following advice about bronchiolitis:

“Bronchiolitis can be caused by one of a number of viruses and involves a widespread inflammation in the lungs. The inflammation process creates increased mucous production throughout the lungs, resulting in a very wet cough and sometimes difficulty breathing.

The difficulty breathing is due to the fact that the mucus completely obstructs some of the small airways, preventing oxygen from getting into the bloodstream. As a result, the body will try to compensate for the lack of oxygen by breathing faster and deeper.

To breathe deeper and attempt to get as much of the lungs to open up, the body will use all of the muscles attached to the lungs and airway to pull the lungs open, causing ‘retractions.’ A baby or toddler having retractions will have their belly pushing out with every breath, you may see their ribcage expanding in an exaggerated way, or they may have flaring nostrils or head bobbing.

Non-improving rapid breathing and/or non-improving wet cough should be evaluated by your child’s physician in the office to ensure that the child is able to maintain a safe oxygen level.

Bronchiolitis is caused by a virus and not bacteria, which unfortunately means that it will not be cured by antibiotics. Unfortunately, it also is not improved with Albuterol or steroids, like asthma would be. Our only treatment is to give oxygen to patients who cannot get enough oxygen into their bloodstream due to the inflammation in the lungs.

While there is not much we can do to help bronchiolitis, it thankfully follows a very predictable course; the inflammation and breathing issues worsen over the first three to four days, then improve. During the improvement phase, the child will continue to have a wet cough to clear the accumulated mucous, but the ease of breathing will improve. Fevers may occur in the first four days, but these should also improve after day four.”

Geisinger Holy Spirit Primary Care locations in Duncannon and Progress report upper respiratory viruses, sinus issues and coughs.

Geisinger Holy Spirit Primary Care/Pediatrics in Carlisle reports the common cold and upper respiratory viruses.

This week, WellSpan Medical Group providers are seeing an increase in upper respiratory infections and strep throat.

In addition, providers continue to see cases of a viral gastrointestinal illness, with symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting. To help reduce the risk of infection, WellSpan Medical Group providers suggest techniques such as coughing into the inside of your elbow, frequent handwashing and disinfecting surfaces such as counters and doorknobs and even grocery carts before shopping. Those affected by the viral gastrointestinal illness should stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids. Slowly feeding ice pops or drinks such as Pedialyte may help, especially with children. If symptoms do not improve after two days, WellSpan Medical Group providers recommend seeking medical care.

WellSpan Medical Group continues to stress the importance of annual flu vaccinations – the best defense against the flu. Anyone looking to schedule their flu vaccine may contact their primary care provider. For additional information, click here.

The pediatricians of Penn State Children’s Hospital still report seeing a high number of viruses that cause cold symptoms, consistent with previous weeks. Numbers of rhinovirus cases,  the virus that causes actual colds, decreased slightly.

Although flu cases are not yet considered widespread, the activity has risen to the point where the hospital epidemiologist has declared that the 2017-2018 influenza season has officially begun. As happens every year at some point, this declaration enacts a set of precautions throughout the Medical Center, designed to protect patients and staff from the spread of the predominant influenza virus strains.

UPMC Pinnacle’s Heritage Pediatrics reports it is not too late to get a flu shot.

Dr. Kathleen Zimmerman said a lot of people are questioning the decision this year since the vaccine provides only minimal protection against a strain of influenza A that has shown up in the U.S.

“There are 3 other strains of that influenza that the quadrivalent vaccine will provide protection for,” Zimmerman said. “Even a small amount of protection is better than nothing because influenza causes deaths every year. Last year over 100 children died from influenza.”

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