Health Topics

Cold and Flu

The flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. Because these two types of illnesses have similar flu-like symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and dry cough are more common and intense.

Colds are usually milder than the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations.

The flu season will last through fall and winter. For the most up-to-date information, including guidance for colleges and universities, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or

Stay Healthy 

  • Get a flu shot to help protect yourself from seasonal flu.
  • Get a pneumonia shot to prevent secondary infection if you are over the age of 65 or have a chronic illness such as diabetes or asthma. For specific guidelines talk to your healthcare provider, or call the CDC hotline at 1.800.232.4636.
  • Make sure your family’s immunizations are up-to-date.

Take common sense steps to limit the spread of germs. Make good hygiene a habit:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Put used tissues in a waste basket.
  • Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve if you don’t have a tissue.
  • Clean your hands after coughing or sneezing. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs are often spread when someone touches something that is contaminated and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
  • Stay at home if you are sick.
  • It is always a good idea to practice good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.

(Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Find more information by clicking on the following links: 

Infectious Diseases

The following public health information is provided to increase awareness about infectious diseases as reported in the media. No active cases of any of these diseases have been reported within the Northeast State community.

Meningococcal Meningitis

  • Meningococcal disease can refer to any illness that is caused by the type of bacteria called Neisseria meningitis, also known as meningococcus [muh-ning-goh-KOK-us].
  • These illnesses are often severe and include infections of the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and bloodstream infections (bacteremia or septicemia).
  • Meningococcus bacteria are spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions like spit (e.g., by living in close quarters or kissing).
  • Meningococcal disease can be treated with antibiotics, but quick medical attention is extremely important.
  • This infection is not spread by casual contact (e.g., classroom contact), touching doorknobs or other surfaces, or breathing the same air.
  • Keeping up to date with recommended vaccines is the best defense against Meningococcal disease.
  • For more information on Meningococcal disease, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever

  • Ebola hemorrhagic fever (Ebola HF) is one of numerous Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers. It is a severe, often fatal disease in humans.
  • There is currently an outbreak in West Africa in the countries of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
  • Early recognition is critical for infection control.
  • Incubation period is 2-21 days after exposure, with 8-10 days being most common.
  • Persons returning from an affected area but who have not had direct contact with the body fluids of symptomatic infected persons or animals, or objects that have been contaminated with body fluids, should monitor their health for 10 days. Those with a potential exposure should monitor their health for 21 days post-exposure. Regardless, any traveler who becomes ill, even if only a fever, should consult a healthcare provider immediately and tell him or her about their recent travel and potential contacts.
  • For more information on Ebola, visit the Ebola website at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

  • Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is viral respiratory illness first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It is caused by a coronavirus called MERS-CoV.
  • Most cases have occurred on the Arabian Peninsula.
  • Any traveler who develops a fever or cough after returning from the Arabian Peninsula or neighboring countries within 14 days or who has close contact with a traveler who develops a respiratory illness within 14 days after travel to the Arabian Peninsula should consult with a healthcare provider immediately.
  • For more information and complete details on MERS, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

Healthy Behaviors

  • Help prevent infectious diseases by practicing positive hygiene habits:
  • Cough or sneeze into your sleeve or tissue.
  • Wash or sanitize hands frequently.
  • Avoid sharing drinking cups, cans, bottles, eating utensils, toothbrushes, cosmetics, smoking devices and towels.

Stomach Flu

Gastroenteritis means inflammation of the stomach and small and large intestines. Viral gastroenteritis is an infection caused by a variety of viruses that results in vomiting and diarrhea. It is often called the “stomach bug” or the “stomach flu” although it is not caused by the influenza viruses.

How to Treat

Fluids are important but can only be taken in relatively small quantities frequently; large amounts at a time stretch the stomach and trigger vomiting. Anti-nausea medications such as Phenergan and Compazine can help, but do require a prescription. Hold off on solid foods for about 2 days to give the lining of the stomach and intestines time to heal. Start back with very bland foods such as the BRAT diet, then move up. [BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, toast]

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medications

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications available at your local pharmacy or grocery store include:

  • Anti-diarrheal preparations of bismuth subsalicylate (e.g., Pepto-Biosmol) or Loperamide (Immodium) can reduce the duration and severity of simple diarrhea. These medications should be avoided if you have a high fever or blood in the stools because they may make the illness worse.
  • Pain reliever/fever reducer. Acetaminophen can make you more comfortable. Ibuprofen is not recommended as it can cause further stomach upset.


Your body needs fluids to function. Diarrhea and vomiting can cause dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Little urine or dark yellow urine
  • Severe weakness, dizziness or lightheadedness

Mild dehydration can be treated by drinking liquids. Sip small amounts of clear liquids frequently. Try ice chips, sips of water, flat ginger ale or 7-Up, weak tea, diluted apple juice, Gatorade, clear soups and/or Jell-O. Severe dehydration may require intravenous fluids, which can help patients quickly.

Call your doctor if you experience:

  • Stools containing blood or black stools
  • Temperature over 101.5 F for more than 24 hours
  • Prolonged vomiting
  • Signs of dehydration
  • Diarrhea that lasts more than 3 days