Holiday spreads germs along with good cheer

The complaints so far include upper respiratory infections, but flu season is just starting.

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WALLA WALLA - In case you brought home more than leftovers from Aunt Nelly's house after the Big Dinner, you are not alone.

Local health-care providers have been seeing plenty of seasonal complaints, including upper respiratory infections.

Not to mention the folks coming in after slip-sliding away in the snow, said Linda Givens, director of critical care services at Walla Walla General Hospital.

Her real fear, however, is for those who don't recognize when they've met their match - "Now that we've had heavy snow, I'm worried about people shoveling snow and having their big (heart attack). This is the perfect storm for chest pains and cardiac events."

Happily, there's no apparent influx of something "huge" yet, said Dr. Sam Kirtley, who works the crowd at Walla Walla Clinic's walk-in immediate care clinic. "Right now, the main thing is sinusitis and bronchitis. And people are indoors now, passing germs around."

Drinking lots of fluids, covering coughs and washing hands cannot be over emphasized, Kirtley said. "That's usually how these things get passed around ... unwashed hands."

One thing he's noticed is that the Walla Walla Valley has not been a participant in the 2010 influenza season to any notable degree, the practitioner said. "I'm sort of impressed that people are getting the idea we really need to take a flu shot."

Agreed, said Alysa Reynolds, emergency department supervisor at Providence St. Mary Medical Center. Not only has her staff not dealt with a lot of flu symptoms in patients, but as of earlier last week, the snow had not brought them many victims of cold and ice, she said. "We've had one fall come in today."

There is one local confirmed case of flu so far, said Harvey Crowder, administrator for Walla Walla County Public Health Department. "This is about the time we see the first few cases of influenza, it's not at all unusual."

The flu virus likes the cooler, dry weather and anyone who has not had a flu shot should be making that appointment as soon as possible, Crowder pointed out.

The season still has several months to get ugly, not peaking until February or so, he cautioned. "It's out there."

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