Oklahomans flock to doctors, clinics with respiratory ailments

Tuesday, February 21st 2006, 5:24 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Oklahomans are flocking to medical facilities with all kinds of upper-respiratory problems, including influenza, doctors say.

Their symptoms have included persistent coughs, sneezing, sore throats, runny noses, achy muscles, nasal congestion, headaches and fevers.

"It's a mini-epidemic," Edmond physician Dr. Tim Siler said Monday.

Generally, for every one confirmed flu case, another 28 Oklahomans have some type of upper-respiratory illness with similar symptoms, Siler said. He and other physicians have encountered cases where someone who got a flu shot in the fall recently contracted the flu.

Either the flu vaccine they received wore off or the vaccine didn't offer full protection against every strain, doctors say.

Oklahoma health care officials said Monday they are diagnosing the flu, flu-like sicknesses, respiratory syncytial virus or RSV, sinusitis, bronchitis and bad colds caused by a variety of viruses and bacteria.

Dr. Mark McCurry of Stigler said he's treating some patients he hasn't seen in 10 to 15 years, and that they're generally complaining about similar symptoms. More seriously ill patients have been hospitalized, he said.

"This has been the busiest February I've had in a long time, at least the last five years or longer," said McCurry.

During recent days, half of the clinic patients being treated by OU physician Dr. Joanna Bruno were suffering from flu-like ailments, she said.

Bruno and other physicians are recommending rest and plenty of fluids to their patients and are writing prescriptions and suggesting over-the-counter drugs to help people feel better.

State epidemiologist Dr. Brett Cauthen said Monday that two upper-respiratory viruses being observed statewide are known as the "rhinovirus" and the "adenovirus."

He said confirmed cases of influenza and other illnesses are being reported to the Oklahoma Health Department.

As of the last Health Department reporting period from Feb. 5-11, Oklahoma had 181 new cases of influenza A, eight new cases of influenza B, and 70 new cases of RSV.

"There's just a lot of activity out there" in the state, Cauthen said.

Oklahoma physicians recommend that those greatest at risk for severe flu-related complications should get a pneumonia shot.