Flu-like symptoms have stricken 75 people at three nursing homes in Orange County, county health officials said Wednesday.
If confirmed by laboratory tests, this would be the season's first reported outbreak of flu in the county, said Dr. Thomas J. Prendergast, the county epidemiologist.
Prendergast declined to identify the homes that have had the outbreak in the last week. But he said the residents who became ill are but a fraction of the hundreds who live at the facilities.
"For the most part, these have not been terribly severe illnesses," he said. "And most of the people who got sick have recovered."
Whether whatever has befallen a growing number of people in the county since the beginning of the month is the flu or a less severe respiratory ailment will not be known until laboratory results become available next week, Prendergast said.
"As always in the winter months, when it gets cooler, there are some respiratory illnesses going around," Prendergast said.
The symptoms of a respiratory illness are a runny nose, cough, sore throat and headache, Prendergast said.
"This can turn into influenza," he said. "But you can tell the difference when you have the flu, because you get sicker. You have more fever, more muscle ache and more malaise."
Regardless of whether it's the flu or a respiratory infection, Prendergast said there's not much anyone can do in the line of treatment.
"Drink plenty of liquids, get plenty of rest and don't infect other people," he advised.
If symptoms linger longer than six days, Prendergast recommended a visit to a doctor. But if the symptoms include a high fever or a lot of mucus congestion, he advised seeing a doctor sooner.