Oklahoma Illness Wave Begins - But Is It The Flu?


Friday, November 15th 2013, 6:24 pm
By: Emory Bryan


Lots of people have been sick lately, and you may be wondering if it's the flu that's arrived in Green Country. It depends - there have been confirmed cases in Oklahoma, but it's not widespread.

People are going into the doctor with symptoms similar to the flu. But when they're tested - they're almost always negative.

Part of the problem is a test that doesn't always catch it - part of it is - it's not always the flu.

This time of year - the main talk about flu is the flu vaccine. It's recommended for almost everyone as the best defense from contracting the flu.

But doctors offices are seeing patients right now with flu-like symptoms, who really don't have the flu. They're coughing; they're sneezing; they feel terrible - but they most often don't really have the flu.

"The majority of what we've seeing is viral upper respiratory illness, which is very common," said Dr. Jeff Black, St. John Urgent Care.

The difference according to Dr. Jeff Black, is a fever - the flu always comes with a fever.

People who come in now might get tested, he says, but regardless of exactly what it is, the treatment might be the same.

"It's mainly symptomatic treatment," Dr. Black said. "There's not much we can do about the flu. there are some medications that claim to reduce the symptoms by a day or two, but there're not very effective."

On the prevention side, there's plenty of flu vaccine this year, and it comes in a new double dose variety that works better for older people.

The shot generally takes two weeks to be fully effective. The nasal spray works right away but costs more.

The flu has been found almost nationwide. Oklahoma has had sporadic cases.

Dr. Black says he's not seen a single positive test so far this fall - but is sure the wave is coming.

"It just depends," he said, "Some year it comes early and some years it comes late. It varies from year to year."

So how do you know?

Again the fever comes faster and goes higher with flu - and the symptoms start very suddenly. The test involves an uncomfortable swab up the nose, and it can often be negative when you're positive or the other way around.