The Times West Virginian

In Today's TWV

January 2, 2008

Respiratory virus mimics the flu

‘Smattering’ of confirmed flu cases reported around the state

FAIRMONT — No culture-confirmed flu cases have been diagnosed yet in Marion County, but the health department has heard reports of an upper respiratory illness that has been circulating.

“There is what appears to be a respiratory virus with a fever and cough, mimicking the flu,” said Cyndee Kiger, director of nursing at the Marion County Health Department.

Kiger has gotten calls from people about the virus. “What I tell them is that they need to go to a physician,” Kiger said. “It would be up to the physician to decide if he or she feels it needs to be cultured.”

A “smattering” of confirmed flu cases have been reported around the state, according to a state epidemiologist.

“We are seeing just a smattering of influenza type B,” said Dr. Dee Bixler, director of infectious disease epidemiology for the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health in Charleston. “Type B is generally the less severe type of influenza. Type A is more severe. It tends to be type B that affects children more than adults.”

As for predicting how this year’s flu season will shape up, “It’s still very early for us to say what’s going on,” Bixler said.

In a given year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web site (, 5 percent to 20 percent of the population gets the flu. More than 200,000 are hospitalized and about 36,000 die.

In West Virginia, flu season tends to hit around late February or early March, Bixler said.

“It’s still not too late to get the flu vaccine,” she noted. “There is quite a bit of vaccine available if they have concerns.”

However, anyone who wants flu vaccine will not be able to find any at the Marion County Health Department and will have to check with private doctors instead. Kiger and her colleagues gave out the last dose the week before Christmas.

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