• 70°

KDMC clinic sees recent rash of flu, other illnesses

Influenza bugs are making their presence well known in theLincoln County area this season, but they’re not alone in spreadingillnesses, an area doctor said.

Dr. Bernard Boka, who practices at King’s Daughters MedicalCenter’s Quick Care Clinic, said the flu, strep throat, bronchitisand sinus infections have come on strong this winter, causing manyadults to miss work and children to miss school.

Unlike an emergency room, which is for accidents and other majorinjuries, the Quick Care Clinic is designed to treat patients withonly minor illnesses or injuries. Therefore, Boka said, the clinicsees a lot of flu cases and other minor illnesses.

“In a majority of the cases, when a person contracts arespiratory illness, the illnesses are not severe enough for anemergency room so they come here for quick treatment,” Bokasaid.

He said the flu is most common between November and April.

“The highest numbers seem to be December to March,” he said. “Myobservation is we seem to get more here beginning in January.”

A rash of absences among school children right before Christmasbreak in December was primarily caused by the flu and an extendedepisode of strep throat, Boka said. Strep throat has also beenprevalent this winter.

Many people seem to get one variant of the flu, recover andbecome infected with a different variant, he said.

“It’s definitely happening,” he said. “Influenza A tends tomutate quicker and is more common. It’s the harder one to get avaccine for.”

Influenza B, however, is also common, but because it mutatesslower it is easier to treat.

The flu vaccine, Boka said, is designed to protect against bothInfluenza A and B.

Because of the sheer number of variants, however, the vaccine’sdesigners have to make educated guesses on which variants will bemost common each season. In addition, he said, because of the timeto produce the vaccine, they are making those guesses six months inadvance of the beginning of the flu season.

“Sometimes they miss,” Boka said. “I don’t think that happenedthis year, though.”

Instead, the doctor said, his case studies show that most peoplesimply did not get vaccinated this year.

“I suspect a lot of folks just didn’t get their shots,” Bokasaid, while still encouraging people to get the flu shots. “Thereis still some benefit to getting it this late.”

Vaccines work by forcing the body to produce antibodies toeliminate the dead virus used in them, he said. Therefore, vaccinesare not really effective until one or two weeks after beingadministered because it takes time for the body to produce thoseantibodies.

When a person gets infected, however, a quick response can oftenlimit the effects of the illness.

“If you come in soon enough, you increase the chances ofreducing the severeness and length of the illness,” Boka said.

The doctor said he is also seeing a lot of cases of sinusinfection, which have helped increase the numbers of viralinfections in the community. The rapid and extreme fluctuations inthe weather this year have forced many people indoors.

“The closed environment and dry air make sinuses fragile andpeople are more susceptible to viruses getting into their system,”Boka said.

The best way to prevent getting ill, he said, is to wash handsfrequently and avoid rubbing the eyes and other membranes. Inaddition, someone displaying flu-like symptoms should isolatethemselves to prevent the spread of the virus.