By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
It's February and a lot of people are sick, but it isn't necessarily the flu.
"There's some other respiratory virus, unnamed, going through," Hill County Health Board member Dr. Bruce Richardson said today. In some cases, the sickness has turned into pneumonia, he added.
Antibiotics have not been effective against it, Richardson said. He is prescribing rest, fluids and cough syrup.
School children appear to be bouncing back.
Tana Parman keeps track of attendance at Havre Middle School. "Last week we were really noticing an increase in the number of students that were missing," she said. This week, the numbers are back to normal.
Some teachers have also missed school, she said, some because they were taking care of sick children at home. Those absences have fallen off too.
"We're on the upswing here," she said.
Havre Middle School nurse Nicole Johnson has been encouraging students to wash their hands frequently, sometimes going class-to-class to remind students.
"Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands," she said.
Dr. Katarina Latkovich, also a Health Board member, sees only adult patients. She said she was on call this weekend, and saw several flu cases, as well as adults with upper-respiratory infections.
Some of her patients have complained of a lingering dry cough, even once they recover from the infection, she said.
Richardson said people who have come to him for treatment also have a lingering cough.
"I would say it's not unexpected and it's probably more than one virus going around," he said. "I don't think it's an epidemic of one virus."
Latkovich said the flu is still a concern. For those who have risk factors, including advanced age or a compromised immune system, flu shots are still available.
January and February are peak flu months, she said.
Latkovich is also still testing patients for pertussis, or whooping cough, an infectious coughing disease that appeared in Hill County in November. She said she has not diagnosed any new cases, nor heard of them, but she said that people should still be alert to the disease, which can be particularly dangerous to infants and young children.
To avoid succumbing to this winter's most recent germ storm, Richardson recommends that people wash their hands regularly and do whatever possible to protect their immune system, including getting plenty of rest.
Latkovich recommended that people who are sick stay home from work to avoid infecting colleagues.