The Influenza virus
Courtesy Photo/CDC

Ebola tops the news, but not the charts of scary diseases menacing Galveston County, experts say.

Influenza, whooping cough, enterovirus D68, and a full slate of grungy cold bugs are more likely culprits to take us to our mattresses. All can be alarming, and several are preventable.

“Right now you should be thinking about influenza,” said Dr. A. Scott Lea, associate professor infectious disease, Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch. Lea has worked in the infectious disease field for more than 30 years.

“If you haven’t gotten your influenza shot, you need to get right down and do that, because a lot of the symptoms of influenza are very similar to all these other things everybody is worried about right now.”

Supplies of flu vaccine are being shored up this month in county public health clinics. Physician offices, the UTMB pediatric clinic, and many area pharmacies including Wal-Mart, CVS, Walgreens and Kroger are also offering the shots.

“The vaccine works; it’s simple to get; it’s inexpensive; and it’s widely available,” Dr. Mark Guidry, chief executive officer of the Galveston County Health District, said in a newspaper interview earlier this month.

Pertussis or whooping cough vaccines are also available and recommended for children and adults living with infants. The combination vaccine protects against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.

Enterovirus D68 is another infectious disease threatening children. There is no vaccine or treatment at this point.

“If I were the parent of small child, I’d be worrying about the enterovirus D68,” said Lea. “Unfortunately there’s not a lot we can do about the virus. There have been cases in Texas.”

The general list of symptoms for any of these diseases should prompt a call to a doctor or a public health clinic. Red flags include:

• Fever more than 100 degrees.

• The coughing up of sputum that has yellow or green tinges. In ill children, discharges from the nose that are yellow or green should prompt a call to the doctor.

• The viral syndrome of muscular aches and pains, headache, nausea, and sore throat.

• Wheezing and difficulty breathing.

Lea’s advice for prevention is basic. “Get vaccines and wash your hands,” he said.

He also recommended a strong dose of common sense in not spreading infections. “Anybody who has a fever should stay home from work,” he said. “Use your best judgment. If you think you’re coming down with influenza, you’re not doing co-workers a favor by exposing them to illness.

“Just do what you think is right. Try not to expose anybody else if you actually come up with a viral illness.”

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