Mention to anyone in town “The Crud going around” and no translation is needed. If they haven’t had the illness themselves, they know someone who has had it.
Here at the Chronicle office, at least six of our small crew have had varying degrees of sickness over the past couple of weeks and the same is true for numerous other workplaces and schools around town.
The schools have been particularly hard hit. Custer Jr./Sr. High School administrative assistant Kelli Moore reported that for the second week of February illnesses were “creeping in” but absentees were at a fairly average level.
However, Moore said last week the numbers of students out due to illness jumped dramatically.
“On average we had pretty close to 40 students out of junior and senior high daily, due to illness,” said Moore. “I can’t confirm that they were all influenza, but I had a number of parents report that is what their child had. There were also other respiratory viruses and stomach viruses mentioned.”
Moore says the high school was hit hardest, particularly among members of the girls and boys basketball teams. Wrestling coach Jared Webster has also reported sickness among his team members over the past several weeks.
“It seemed that the students would think they were getting over their illness, come back to school, and it would come back with a vengeance and they would have to stay home again,” said Moore. “The ones who had the ‛double-whammy’ were hit hardest, with one student getting sick, getting well, then acquiring influenza B that turned into pneumonia.
Down the driveway at Custer Elementary, the report is similar. Administrative assistant Cindy Heyne says over the past two weeks an average of 21 students have been absent due to illness, which is approximately seven percent of the student body.
On Monday Heyne reported, “Today we have five percent ill, so hopefully we are on the mend.”
Absentees among the faculty at both schools have been significantly less than within the student body, probably because most educators have learned how to protect themselves from what is going around in their classrooms.
Meanwhile, at Regional Health Medical Clinic, Dr. Joy Falkenburg reports the clinic has been busy, but not necessarily overwhelmed with the recent plague.
Falkenburg says, while the clinic has “seen a lot of influenza recently,” she is not sure it’s any worse than previous seasons. “To me, honestly, it seems par for the course,” she said.
However, she said, “We have seen a really dramatic increase in the number of upper respiratory infections in the last two weeks.”
She said respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) “has been a big one.” The virus, most often referred to simply as “a cold,” is especially hard on younger children, causing them to have a runny nose, coughs, wheezing and even stridor which she describes as a sharp breathing sound. She says RSV can also bring on a barking cough.
“In addition to RSV, we have a lot of influenza A and B,” said Falkenburg. “Most recently we’ve had more influenza B,” she said, which is characterized by a sore throat, headache and body aches.
“It makes you feel worse than having a common cold,” said Falkenburg, adding that extreme fatigue is another symptom. “Some people will have dizzy spells and be throwing up,” she said.
Falkenburg said because the two illnesses are caused by a virus, most sufferers don’t need to be treated with prescription medications.
She said, however, that those most at risk for complications may need to be seen by a physician. That list includes young children, adults with asthma, those whose immune system is compromised and those over the age of 65 or 70. She said people in those conditions are at a “higher risk of needing hospitalization or supplemental oxygen with these kinds of viruses.”
Noting that doctors are often under pressure to prescribe antibiotics, Falkenburg stresses they won’t have an effect on a viral illness and overprescription over time will weaken the effectiveness of the medications. She urges those hit by the flu to give it time and get lots of rest.
“Flu lasts all of 10-12 days,” she said, adding that it’s not surprising to have fever the first three or four days.
However, Falkenburg said if a person has a fever, then starts to feel better and then spikes a fever again, that may indicate a secondary pneumonia.
“I’ve had three or four cases of that,” said Falkenburg, “but that hasn’t been the vast majority of cases.”
To prevent catching The Crud, Falkenburg recommends washing your hands regularly, cleaning off surfaces where “respiratory droplets” from a sick person in the house may have landed and good nutrition and rest for a healthy immune system.
For those who are down with The Crud, the doctor recommends time, rest, sleep and over-the-counter medications to lesson symptoms like cough and runny nose.
She said there are some old-time remedies she believes in.
“I believe elderberry is helpful,” she says. “I think people should use fresh chopped garlic. I think that bone marrow soup can be helpful when made with real bone marrow.”
Yes, according to Falkenburg, grandma’s old-fashioned chicken soup may actually have some curative properties. However, it can’t be canned soup, but must be made with a broth made by boiling the bones of the chicken.
Falkenburg said bone marrow carries certain immune-supporting agents, but she said the other reason it helps may be simply the love that was put into cooking it.
“One part of it was just the love and attention you received from your parents,” said the doctor. “There’s actually data behind that. That makes you better.”