RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A day like today reminds us that winter is a distant memory, yet many of the doctors in our Neighborhood Health Watch program are seeing patients that are still complaining of problems like the stomach flu and strep throat. Joining us to discuss it is Dr. Vicki Latham, a physician with the Primary Health Group at Ironbridge in Chesterfield and one of our doctors in our Neighborhood Health Watch program.
Ryan Nobles: This question actually comes from one of our viewers that looked up on NBC12.com and asked a question about this, because they saw people were talking about the stomach flu and strep throat.
Dr. Vicki Latham: Sure.
Ryan Nobles: How is it people are still dealing with strep throat first at this time of year?
Dr. Vicki Latham: Well, a lot of people think that both strep throat and viral gastroenteritis are winter diseases, but these diseases can happen at any time during the year. Most of the cases that are reported do tend to be in the winter months but again they can still be reported as well in the spring and summer.
Ryan Nobles: Why is it a bigger problem in the winter?
Dr. Vicki Latham: Well, there are a couple of thoughts. In the winter months, you tend to have people who are inside more, in a closer environment - think about work environment, school day care, people aren't getting outside as much, and all you really need is a contact person in a contained environment and then you have an infection outbreak.
Ryan Nobles: So it actually doesn't have anything to do with the temperature?
Dr. Vicki Latham: No, it doesn't. Another thought is that during the winter months, you have more -- it is a seasonal time for flu and for viral illnesses. Strep is a bacterial infection, but if a person is infected with a viral illness, their immune system may be compromised and they're more likely to pick up a bacterial infection like strep.
Ryan Nobles: So the incidents of these viruses we saw in the winter months are not as big a threat as they are now.
Dr. Vicki Latham: Correct.
Ryan Nobles: But that doesn't mean the bacterial infections still aren't around?
Dr. Vicki Latham: Correct.
Ryan Nobles: What can people do to avoid these infections?
Dr. Vicki Latham: I think the most important points to remember for prevention are simple facts: hand washing, using alcohol based hand rubs, cleaning off surfaces where infected people have been, and then most importantly, if you do know of an infected person or are that person, stay home, stay out of that environment where you can infect or contaminate other people.
Ryan Nobles: I noticed too in one of our Neighborhood Health Watch reports that we're seeing a lot of adults with strep. Do you think adults forget they are just as susceptible?
Dr. Vicki Latham: I think they do, especially adults with small children in the house. It's easy to forget that. It is not a child's disease.
See the video at right for the full interview.