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CNN Today

Flu Outbreak Spreads Along East Coast as Everyone Seems to Feel the Bug

Aired January 6, 2000 - 2:01 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Who knew the millennium bug that finally bit us would be so low tech? A flu outbreak is spreading like a bad rumor in the East, today. Doctors are swamped, and plenty of us are achy and sniffling.

Here's CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Does it seem like everyone you know is sick?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The cough, and muscle aches, and just generally feeling yucky.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In my office, there's 20 people, and probably 18 of them have been either sick and better now, or getting sick.

COHEN: Emergency rooms in many cities have been swamped. In California, health officials made a plea to the public.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Try not to go the emergency room.

COHEN: So is the flu more severe this year than others? The Centers for Disease Control says no, it doesn't seem to be any worse, but...

DR. CAROLYN BUXTON BRIDGES, CDC: There are a couple of different things going on this year. The influenza season is a little bit earlier this year than last. And also, there are other viruses that are around at the same time that influenza is around.

COHEN: Atlanta internist, Dr. Alan Miller, says his office has been inundated with people who don't actually have the flu. He can tell, because they don't have a high fever, but they just feel, well, yucky.

DR. ALAN MILLER: A lot of people call it "the crud."

COHEN: Dr. Miller says he can't really do much for them.

MILLER: A lot of times patients want reassurance that they're OK, that they're not deathly ill, and that they don't need more aggressive treatment.

COHEN: But there are times when you do absolutely have to see your doctor.

DR. WINKLER WEINBERG, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST: If you have a temperature over 103, if you have chest pain, if you have shortness of breath in the least, if you're coughing up secretions that are colored.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: Elizabeth is with us now. As we heard in that piece, the flu bug is biting us a little early. Is this the worst of it?

COHEN: Well, we'll never know. It does seem to be peaking in that it's high and it's sort of, in a way, where peaks are in other years, but we don't know if it's a peak that's going down or a peak that's going to stay there, or maybe it'll go up and we'll have a new peak. So, it's really hard to say, but it's just early this year. Last year, it was more like March, other years in December, but this is on the early side.

ALLEN: Be on the lookout. What about that flu shot? Is it helping?

COHEN: Well, this strain was indeed in the flu shot. The strain that's prevalent this year is called A Sydney, and it was in the shot. But of course, not everybody gets the shot. So, if you didn't get the shot, you can get the flu.

ALLEN: And what about new flu drugs that are out there?

COHEN: Well, both the new and the old flu drugs that are out there, it's something very important to remember: If you go to your doctor and you want to get the medicine for the flu, first of all, you really have to have the flu and not just some other bug, and second of all, you have to get there within 48 hours of the first onset of your symptoms, and a lot of people, of course, don't do that; you sort of tough it out for a little while at home and then go to the doctor later. In that case, you're too late, and he can give you drugs for the symptoms but he can't give you any medicine that will necessarily shorten the course of your disease.

ALLEN: All right, Elizabeth, thanks. Stay healthy.

COHEN: Thank you. You, too.

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