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Seasonal Allergies Stir Concerns; US Reports Surge in Illnesses

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United States: The changing weather conditions have raised concerns and worries as the immune system has been irritated by seasonal allergies. As spring is approaching, the number of illnesses has been witnessing an increase.

According to the health experts, the most number of cases, linked to the infections and diseases, have been reported in California state of the United States. While addressing the concern, the California Department of Public Health, during an interaction with The Sacramento Bee, mentioned, “Many respiratory viruses, including influenza, (respiratory syncytial virus) and COVID-19, can cause cold-like symptoms.”

Amid the flux of seasonal respiratory viruses such as influenza, coronavirus, and RSV, which traditionally peak between the months of October and March, these pathogens maintain a year-round presence within California’s boundaries, as asserted by the state health department’s online platform.

As of the midpoint of March, cases of influenza, coronavirus, RSV, and norovirus were actively proliferating throughout the state’s populace.

The California health department underscored that individuals not deemed high risk for severe health complications, including expectant mothers, elderly individuals, and those with compromised immune systems, may not necessarily require precise identification of the causative viral agent inducing their symptoms.

Nonetheless, for those inclined to ascertain the nature of their disease, California health authorities offered the following guidance:

Does an individual suffer from Influenza?

The latest weekly report from the California Department of Public Health reveals a gradual uptick in influenza prevalence across the state.

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From March 17 to March 23, there was a 5.3% surge in flu cases compared to the preceding week, which exhibited a similar increase, as reported by The Sacramento Bee.

During this period, California reported nine fatalities attributable to influenza.

What are the hallmark symptoms of influenza?

As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of influenza encompass:

  • Fever or chills
  • Persistent cough
  • Irritated throat
  • Nasal congestion or rhinorrhea
  • Muscular discomfort or cephalalgia
  • Profound fatigue
  • Nausea and diarrhea more frequently observed among pediatric populations

How can one discern whether their affliction aligns with influenza?

The California Department of Public Health advises seeking medical evaluation to undergo diagnostic testing.

Per CDC guidelines, diagnostic modalities entail nasal or pharyngeal swabbing by a healthcare practitioner, followed by laboratory analysis.

Examples of diagnostic tests encompass reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, viral culture, and immunofluorescence assays, as reported by The Sacramento Bee.

Do Symptoms Indicative of COVID-19?

The CDC outlined the potential symptoms of COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Tiredness
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle, head, or body aches
  • Net loss of taste or smell
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

“The onset of symptoms may manifest within a timeframe spanning from two to 14 days post-exposure to the viral pathogen,” elucidates the CDC’s online portal.

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Despite symptom overlap between influenza and COVID-19, the California Department of Public Health advocates employing COVID-19 self-testing kits to discern the causative agent.

The latest weekly update furnished by the department disclosed a 2.4% positivity rate in COVID-19 tests.

Within the past week, approximately 800 individuals required hospitalization due to COVID-19-related complications.

Between October 1 and March 30, California tallied a cumulative total of 3,145 fatalities linked to coronavirus infections.

Is It Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)?

Respiratory syncytial virus infections typically manifest during late autumn, winter, and early spring, per CDC guidelines.

As of the most recent data, RSV incidence in California appeared to be on an upward trajectory, The Sacramento Bee reported.

While March 23 witnessed roughly 12 documented cases of RSV in California, this figure escalated to nearly 16 cases by March 30, according to the CDC’s latest situational update.

Symptoms indicative of RSV infection encompass:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing in very young babies

How can one ascertain the presence of RSV?

Mayo Clinic suggests that while diagnostic tests may not invariably be warranted for RSV detection, they can aid in identifying complications or ruling out alternative respiratory pathogens with akin symptomatology.

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Diagnostic modalities may entail chest radiography, oropharyngeal or nasopharyngeal swabs, pulse oximetry for oxygen saturation assessment, and serological assays.

Should One Opt for Testing for Norovirus?

In contrast to COVID-19, influenza, and RSV, norovirus primarily elicits gastrointestinal manifestations.

The CDC underscored norovirus as the principal etiology of emetic and diarrheal episodes, in addition to being a prevalent cause of foodborne illness nationwide.

Characteristic symptoms encompass:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea

However, some individuals may present with pyrexia, cephalalgia, and myalgia.

“The incubation period typically spans from 12 to 48 hours post-exposure,” delineates the CDC. “Most individuals afflicted with norovirus exhibit convalescence within a timeframe of one to three days; however, contagiousness may persist for several days thereafter,” as per The Sacramento Bee.

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To ascertain norovirus infection, Mayo Clinic suggests stool analysis at the behest of a healthcare provider.

Could My Symptoms Be Attributed to Allergies?

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, pollen exposure during warmer seasons can precipitate cold-like symptoms among individuals predisposed to seasonal allergic rhinitis, colloquially known as hay fever, and allergic asthma.

Symptoms of allergic rhinitis, which is caused by seasonal allergies, can include:

  • Stuffy nose
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy nose, eyes, ears or mouth
  • Red and watery eyes
  • Swelling around the eyes

Symptoms of allergic asthma are as follows:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Cough
  • Wheezing
  • A drop in lung function
  • Waking at night due to asthma symptoms

While respiratory viruses and allergic reactions often evoke analogous symptomatology, the Mayo Clinic emphasizes the rarity of sore throat and cough among individuals afflicted with seasonal allergies.

Moreover, distinctive features of allergic rhinitis encompass periorbital edema and infraorbital discoloration, as reported by The Sacramento Bee.

Dr. NaYoung Kim, chief allergist and immunologist at Kaiser Permanente Sacramento and Roseville, underscored that allergic reactions do not confer susceptibility to infectious illnesses.

“Although individuals may subjectively report malaise, it does not imply a correlative decline in immune competence,” affirmed Kim. “Allergies per se do not engender augmented susceptibility to infectious maladies.”

Kim advocates environmental modifications to mitigate allergic symptomatology, encompassing indoor sequestration and meticulous personal hygiene following outdoor excursions.

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