With the caveat that most of the time, reports of unidentified illnesses such as this one end up being something fairly routine, we’ve an extended audio interview/remarks (h/t Emily on FluTrackers) this morning from Dr. Mark Escott - Medical Director for the Montgomery County Hospital District - on the recent reports of four deaths from an as-yet unidentified flu-like illness in Texas (see Texas: MCHD On Deaths From Unidentified `Flu-like’ Illness).
Local TV station KHOU-TV also has a video report, and accompanying story, on their website, where they describe a widening search in local hospitals for potential additional cases. For now, the cause of this illness remains unknown.
Understandably, this story has caught the attention of the media in Texas, and across the nation. `Medical Mysteries’ are always good for a headline. But until doctors figure out what this illness is, we don’t even really know whether these eight patients are all suffering from the same infection.
We’ve discussed it before, but it is worth repeating that anytime there is an outbreak of an illness, the most serious cases are almost always identified first, since they are the ones that end up seeking treatment.
Invariably, that tends to skew our initial perceptions as to its severity.
For now, I see little point in speculating as to the cause, as `flu-like’ symptoms covers a lot of territory. With the CDC and local public health agencies on the trail of this illness, I fully expect we’ll learn more in the next day or two. In the meantime, this is flu season, and `mystery illness’ or not, it would be prudent to observe the following flu hygiene steps from the CDC, no matter where you live.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- Practice good health habits. Get plenty of sleep and exercise, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy food.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
Because mundane or not, seasonal flu claims thousands of lives every year in this country.