Summer cases of flu bad sign for flu season

By Brandi Hodges - bio | email

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - With the spring outbreak of the "swine flu" across the country, many in Region 8 are staying on high alert this summer.  For some that means extra precautions like washing their hands and for others it means going to the doctor!

While not entirely uncommon, most of us don't come down with the flu during the summer and if we do we don't get tested for it.

"I'm afraid we're going to have a very bad flu season," said Dr. Timothy Dow of the NEA Urgent Care on Windover.

If the summer is any indication, Dr. Dow said the number of flu cases over the next few months could grow.

"Normally we don't see the flu through the summer.  This flu is persistent enough that the cases have sporadically come through during the summer," said Dow.

And he's not alone.  Dr. Lance Tuetken at First Care said they're seeing summer flu cases too.

"Compared to other summers, certainly there are more cases now.  We aren't overwhelmed with it, but certainly there is a trend upwards," said Dr. Tuetken.

Part of that could be increased awareness.

"The scare over the flu has people coming in a lot earlier and people are coming in specifically to be tested where we didn't do that before," said Dr. Dow.

When doctors in Region 8 test for the flu they're only testing for "type A" and "type B".  They are not testing for the H1N1 strain of the virus.

"If they test positive you can make the assumption that it's swine flu but all we can tell the patient is, 'You have the flu'," said Dr. Tuetken.

"The swine flu is "type A" flu.  If our test comes back positive for "type A", at this point, we are just assuming that we are treating swine flu and we are treating it that way," said Dr. Dow.

The regular flu and h1-n1 strain of the virus have the same type of symptoms.

"Symptoms are high fever, clear runny nose, non productive cough," said Dr. Tuetken.

The two types are also treated the same way.  A big difference though is usually the flues that go around are similar to previous strains and most people don't catch it.

"It's going to be a big issue.  This flu is infecting a lot more people because most people have no immunity to it," said Dr. Dow.

That's why doctors say it's very important to get a flu shot.

"When we have a vaccine available people will not only need a vaccine for the traditional flu but they'll also need the swine flu vaccine," said Dr. Tuetken.

While there is a slight increase in the flu for the summer in the Jonesboro area, it is not something other communities are experiencing.

The White River Medical Center in Batesville and Arkansas Methodist Medical Center are not seeing additional cases of the flu for the summer.

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