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Doctor: Treat flu early

Feb. 8, 2001

McLennan County posts highest 'B' type in state

By AMY RUDY

Reporter

It's flu season in McLennan County, and the Baylor Health Center is urging students to get treated as soon as possible if they believe they have the flu virus.

Out of the three types of influenza viruses -- A, B and C -- McLennan County has reported the highest number of type B cases in the state, according to the Texas State Department of Health.

'We saw a real upturn last week in the number of flu cases here at the health center,' said Dr. Mark Schwartze, director of health services. 'I saw two people [recently] who definitely had the flu, and at least seven or eight students within the past week, and that is just the patients that I personally treated.'

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site, influenza is an infection of the respiratory tract caused by the influenza virus. Compared with most other viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, influenza infection often causes a more severe illness.

Schwartze said that the flu symptoms typically begin with a sudden onset. 'It will just hit a person very hard. I have students who come in and say they woke up and felt like they have been hit by a ton of bricks.'

Typical symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, as well as headaches, muscle aches, and extreme fatigue.

Schwartze said that the first 48 hours of the flu are the most critical in beginning treatment.

'The FDA has approved at least four antiviral drugs to treat acute, uncomplicated influenza. If we can get students in quickly within the first two days of their symptoms, then we can test them for the flu virus and begin treatment,' Schwartze said.

Once the 48-hour window has passed, Schwartze said that all the physicians can do is treat the symptoms of the flu and not the actual virus.

If left untreated, the flu virus can lead to complications, such as bronchitis and pneumonia, which could mean time spent in the hospital.

Janice Porter, a Pampa junior, said that she developed the flu earlier this year and was not properly treated for it.

'I ended up in the hospital with pneumonia because the doctor I saw over the Christmas break did not properly treat me. If I would have had the flu medicine in the first two days, I most likely could have avoided getting pneumonia in the first place,' Porter said.

Pam Kilgore, chief pharmacist at the health center, said that the pharmacy has sold a lot of the new flu medication Tamiflu. 'It seems to be the most effective, and I am sure we would be prescribing a lot more if people came in during the first two days of their illness.'

Kilgore said that the most common mistake people make in taking medication is not finishing the full course of their prescription.

'It is so important to finish all of your medication because otherwise the illness can come back even worse the second time and it will be more difficult to treat,' Kilgore said.

Schwartze said students, faculty, and staff can still get the flu vaccine at the health center in order to avoid contracting the virus.

'Along with common sense precautions such as good hand-washing practices, getting lots of rest and eating a proper diet, people can still protect themselves with the vaccine because we are right in the middle of flu season,' Schwartze said.

The flu vaccine is available at the health center for $15 and can be charged to Baylor students' accounts. For more information, contact the health center at 710-2461 or visit the CDC Web site at www.cdc.gov.

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