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Experts offer advice for flu sufferers

January 21, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Nationwide, flu rates appear to be leveling off, indicating the country may be at its peak. But infectious-disease specialists say Southern California can still expect to see a higher than usual amount of cases in the coming weeks. So from Dr. Oz to local health officials, we get the best advice on how to handle the symptoms.

"It's the most rapid uptick in the cases of flu we've seen in a decade and the strain of flu virus is actually a pretty deadly one," said Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Dr. Oz says that unlike a cold, the flu hits your body all over.

"The flu is very different. The flu is symptoms throughout your body, you have aches and pains everywhere, you have a temperature," said Dr. Oz. "The cold is all up in your head and neck. It's a sore throat, runny nose, sinus pain. Whereas the flu is your whole body being attacked by a virus."

Experts say that once you get the flu, you can be contagious up to a week and it may take even longer before your feel 100 percent.

"If you're sick don't go to work. And if your child is sick, don't send them to school," said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Fielding says you should only seek medical care if you're suffering serious complications such as labored breathing or severe dehydration.

"And you don't really have serious complications, stay at home because going to an emergency room, there's not a lot that they're going to do for you, frankly, and you're going to feel terrible while you're waiting. And you're not going to be the highest priority there," said Fielding.

One thing patients can take advantage of if they see their doctor at the onset of illness is the anti-viral drug Tamiflu. Studies show it can reduce the duration and severity of flu symptoms, but Dr. Oz says that unless you have underlying medical continues, don't bother.

"I personally don't think it's worth it for most people. Although you can take it if you're between the ages of 2 and 50. It'll only help you for about a half a day of shorter symptoms. And for most people it's probably not worth the hassle. You're probably better off taking a little extra vitamin C and some Echinacea," said Dr. Oz.

While it's believed that some East Coast and Midwest states have hit their peak of flu season, Dr. Fielding says Californians should still get a flu shot as soon as possible.

"Because even if it peaks, you have a lot of flu that you're going to get after the peak on the way down. It's like a mountain," said Fielding.

While California continues to see increasing amounts of flu activity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says nationwide this year's flu season has reached the midpoint and health officials expect the number of hospitalizations and death to rise further as the flu epidemic progresses.


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