Wednesday, November 10th, 2010
By Shelley Grieshop
Fall arrives with stomach flu outbreak
  Auglaize County health officials continue to monitor the spread of a stomach virus circulating in the Grand Lake area.
"We've seen a lot of vomiting and diarrhea," county medical director Dr. Juan Torres told board members Tuesday morning.
Director of nursing Cindy Jones also spoke on the issue.
"Last week, on Monday, I received a call from the St. Marys school nurse about a high absenteeism rate in the middle school," Jones said.
In two days, similar symptoms were being reported in students at the high school and elementary levels where absenteeism also began to increase, she said.
Mercer County health officials also have recently reported high numbers of the illness.
Jones said the stomach flu is different from the seasonal flu, which typically causes respiratory problems. She said the stomach flu often spreads quickly to all age groups but rarely requires hospitalization.
One Auglaize County doctor had trouble keeping his doors open last week after numerous staff members and their families became ill, she added.
Jones vowed to continue tracking the number of people showing up at area hospitals and physician offices with the flu-like symptoms.
"We're looking into this carefully. Hopefully it's nothing more than a virus," she said.
She noted that stool samples were taken and sent to the Ohio Department of Health for testing but results have not yet returned.
Torres reminded the public to frequently wash hands with soap and water to reduce the health risk. He also explained that it's common for colds and influenza to arrive in the fall when the weather changes.
Torres also spoke about another health problem that is being diagnosed more frequently in the local area: methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MERSA) - a highly-drug resistant bacteria often found on the skin. He said the risk of MERSA often arises this time of year as people suffer scratches and cuts while performing outdoor tasks.     "You should wash the wound immediately with soap and water," he said.
He also advised placing an infection-fighting ointment on the area to speed the healing process. Symptoms of a MERSA infection can include redness and soreness at the wound site and a fever.
The health board learned the environmental department has received an increase in phone calls from area residents asking about bedbugs. Sanitarian Curt Anderson said he's confirmed three specimens recently but has no confirmed outbreaks in the county.
Most of the cases he's reviewed involve residents who live in rental properties, he said.
"We're also getting a lot of questions about public places" such as movie theaters and hotels, he added.
The State Fire Marshal's Office handles bedbug infestations in public buildings, Anderson told the board.
Bedbugs derive nourishment from human blood and can live up to 10 months without feeding, Anderson said. They lay up to 500 eggs in a lifetime and the tiny insects reach the adult stage within five weeks, he said.
"That's the reason they multiply so fast," Anderson added.
The recommended treatment is to hire a professional exterminator. Unfortunately, the EPA currently bans the most successful chemicals against bedbugs, he said. Effective eradication methods require repeat treatments with chemicals that leave residual traces, he added.
The treatment process is expensive, Anderson said.
Bedbugs are considered a nuisance pest and not a health risk because their bites typically aren't painful and the insects do not carry disease.
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