Doctors Paying Closer Attention to Flu Symptoms

Doctors Paying Closer Attention to Flu Symptoms

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Ed Yeates ReportingThe flu bug and all its friends are getting ready for their seasonal tour across the country. This year, though, physicians in Utah and other states will be paying closer attention to whose actually coming to town.

Is it going to be another moderate year for the flu in Utah, or a bad one? As always, infectious disease experts cannot predict what will happen. But this season they've got their guard up for good reason.

The flu vaccine will cover the same garden variety of influenza strains as in previous years, and there will be plenty of it this year for all those who need a shot. But expect physicians to ask a few more questions about your sickness. SARS may show up again, mixed in with all the other bugs.

Dr. Adi Gundlapalli with the University of Utah traveled to Toronto last month as a consultant for policy changes there.

Adi Gundlapalli, M.D., Ph.D., U of U Department of Infectious Diseases: "There are some experts in the world, including in our country, that feel that it may become seasonal - especially in areas that have already experienced it."

That's not to say it will show up here, but Dr. Gundlapalli says SARS worldwide has taught physicians a lesson about how to prepare for unusual respiratory illnesses. Human cases of an Avian influenza were also identified last year outside the United States.

Robert Rolfs, M.D., State Epidemiologist, Utah Health Dept.: "Because there have been a couple of those outbreaks, we're looking for that different kind of influenza germ that could make more people get sick."

State epidemiologist Dr. Robert Rolfs says there is no need for alarm. Physicians simply may be a little more sensitive to where their patients have been and what they've picked up, just in case.

Robert Rolfs, M.D., State Epidemiologist, Utah Health Dept.: "Take a travel history more often than we use to, to make sure we recognize that person who has something a little bit unusual. That means we need to take notice and respond."

Adi Gundlapalli, M.D., Ph.D., U of U Department of Infectious Diseases: "We have to be prepared for emerging infectious diseases."

The CDC this year is also launching a big campaign again advising patients and doctors not to treat viral infections with antibiotics. That only makes bacterial bugs tougher and more resistant.

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