December 2012  

   
Is It a Cold or The Flu?

It’s cold and flu season again, and understanding the difference between the two can help determine the proper treatment plan to bring you the most comfort. 

Cold  

The first symptoms of a cold are usually a scratchy, sore throat, followed by sneezing and a runny nose and possibly a mild headache and cough.  Your temperature is usually normal or only slightly elevated. 

 

Flu

 

Flu symptoms usually develop fairly quickly and include a headache, fever, aches and pains, dry cough and chills.  A general feeling of fatigue and weakness may last for days or even weeks.  The flu spreads easily from one person to another. 

 

Symptoms

Cold

Flu

Fever

rare

high (102-104 F);
lasts 3-4 days

Headache

rare

severe

General Aches and Pains

slight

usual and often severe

Fatigue, Weakness, Tiredness

quite mild

early and severe, can last up to 2-3 weeks

Stuffy Nose

common

sometimes

Sneezing

usual

sometimes

Sore Throat

common

sometimes

Chest Discomfort

sometimes

common

Cough

dry, choking cough

can become severe

Treatment

For a cold, antibiotics are needed only if your healthcare provider tells you that you have a bacterial infection.  To help you feel better while you are sick, get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids.  If needed, use a humidifier to soothe dry air passages. 

For the flu, antiviral drugs are available and can make your illness milder, help you feel better faster and possibly prevent serious flu-related complications, like pneumonia.  

Everyone should see their healthcare provider if their symptoms get worse, last a long time or if they develop vomiting, high fever, chest pains or coughing with thick, yellow-green mucus.

Prevention

Practicing good health habits such as covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, washing your hands often and staying home when you are sick can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the cold and flu.  Keep countertops clean, especially when someone in your family is sick, and avoid shared use of hand towels.  Clean the places that harbor the most germs such as doorknobs, faucets, remote controls, light switches, telephones and computer keyboards.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone who is at least 6 months of age or older should get the flu vaccine this season.  Getting vaccinated is especially important for the following:

  People who have certain medical conditions, including asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease.
  Pregnant women.
  People 65 years of age and older.
  People who live with or care for others who have a high risk of developing serious complications.

Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services (HCPHES) offers the flu vaccine for $12 at each of its four health clinics by appointment only.  To make an appointment, please call the Health Clinic Call Center at 713-212-6800.  

Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services health clinics
Antoine Health Clinic 
5815 Antoine, Suite A
Houston, Texas 77091
8:00 AM—5:00 PM
Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Baytown Health Clinic 
1000 Lee Drive
Baytown, Texas 77520
8:00 AM—5:00 PM
Tuesday & Thursday
Humble Health Clinic    
1730 Humble Place Drive
Humble, Texas 77338
8:00 AM—5:00 PM
Tuesday & Thursday
Southeast Health Clinic  
3737 Red Bluff Road 
Pasadena, Texas 77502
8:00 AM—5:00 PM
Monday, Wednesday, Friday

For more information on colds and flu, visit the HCPHES website at www.hcphes.org or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov.

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What You Need To Know about Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has issued a health advisory urging residents to get immunized against pertussis.  Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a potentially lethal illness.  DSHS has cited six deaths and confirmed more than 1,000 cases of pertussis in the state so far this year.  The six deaths are the most for a single year since 2005.  There were 961 cases of pertussis last year, down from a peak of 3,358 in 2009. 

Of the six deaths this year, five were infants under 2 months old, the age at which the first pertussis vaccination is recommended.  The pertussis vaccine protects against whooping cough.  Whooping cough is highly contagious and can be passed easily from person to person.  It is important for parents and others around newborns to make sure they receive the recommended doses of the vaccine. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cases of whooping cough have increased nationwide since the 1980s and have risen steadily among teenagers and babies under 6 months of age.

 
 
How does Whooping Cough Spread?

Whooping cough spreads easily through the air when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes.  A person can spread the disease while having cold-like symptoms and for at least two weeks after coughing starts.

Many babies and children get whooping cough from adults (including caregivers) or older siblings who do not know they have the disease.  Pregnant women with whooping cough can give it to their newborn babies. 

What are the Symptoms?

Whooping cough starts with the following symptoms (first stage):

  Runny or stuffed-up nose
  Sneezing
  Mild cough
  A pause in breathing in infants – apnea

After one to two weeks, coughing starts.  It can be severe. (second stage)
It is during the second stage that the diagnosis of whooping cough usually is suspected.

  Children and babies can cough very hard, over and over.
  When children gasp for breath after a coughing fit, they make a “whoop” sound. Babies may not make this sound.
  Coughing fits make it hard to breathe, eat, drink, or sleep and happen more often at night.
  Babies and young children may turn blue from lack of oxygen.
  Coughing fits can last for 10 weeks and sometimes return with the next respiratory illness.
What is the Treatment for Whooping Cough?

Pertussis is generally treated early with antibiotics from your healthcare provider. Treatment after three weeks of being ill is unlikely to help because the bacteria are gone from your body. Also, pertussis can sometimes be very serious, requiring treatment in the hospital.

Manage whooping cough and reduce the risk of spreading it to others by covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing, washing your hands frequently with soap and water, and not sharing cups and utensils.

Can Whooping Cough be Prevented?

Vaccines provide the best protection against pertussis. Pertussis vaccine is most commonly given in combination with the vaccines for diphtheria and tetanus. (Pertussis is the “aP” in the DTaP vaccine – routinely given to children, and the “ap” in the Tdap vaccine given to adolescents and adults.) Since immunity wears off with time, it’s important that teenagers and adults be up-to-date with their immunizations.

For maximum protection against pertussis:

  Children need five DTaP shots – first three doses are given at 2, 4, and 6 months of age.  The fourth dose is given between 15-18 months of age, and the fifth is given at 4-6 years of age.
  Preteens need to get a dose of the Tdap booster between 11-12 years of age.
  Adults who didn’t get Tdap as a preteen or teen should get one dose of Tdap.  The easiest way for adults to ensure immunity is to get the Tdap vaccine instead of their regular tetanus booster.    

In October 2012, the CDC Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices recommended Tdap immunization to pregnant women during each pregnancy.  Pregnant women should get one dose of Tdap during the late second trimester or third trimester of pregnancy to protect their infants before they can be fully vaccinated.  If not given during pregnancy, women should get the vaccine before leaving the hospital or birthing center. 

 

Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services (HCPHES) provides immunizations at all four HCPHES health clinics by appointment only.  The cost to administer immunizations to adults and children ranges from free to $14.  To schedule an appointment, please call the Health Clinic Call Center at 713-212-6800, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. -5 p.m. 

 

To learn more about pertussis, visit the HCPHES website at www.hcphes.org or the CDC website at www.cdc.gov.

 
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Harris County Flood Control District’s Inaugural
Flood Warning System Mobile Website Goes Live

Residents Can Monitor Harris County’s Rainfall and Bayou Levels on Mobile Devices


Screen Shot of Harris County Flood Warning System Mobile Website Landing Page

Headed to work in a downpour?  Wonder if the bayou near your home is rising?  Now you can monitor rainfall and bayou/stream levels near your home, place of work and daily commute route on your mobile device anytime and anywhere. The Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) has launched its inaugural Flood Warning System mobile website designed for quick and easy access to the Harris County Regional Flood Warning System at www.harriscountyfws.org

The HCFCD urges the public to use the mobile website and the information it provides to prepare and take appropriate precautions during heavy rain and flooding.

The flood warning system draws information from a network of gauges that measure rainfall data and water levels in bayous and major streams throughout Harris County 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.   The real-time* information is available on the flood warning system mobile application and website through a user-friendly interactive map.  The District’s Flood Watch team monitors the data and works during severe weather to advise the public and local officials of areas that are and could be affected by flooding. This data is used in making decisions before, during and after storm events to reduce the risk of property damage, injuries and loss of life.  The information also is critical during winter weather and hurricanes.

How the Harris County Regional Flood Warning System Mobile Website Works

By inputting www.harriscountyfws.org, users access the mobile website home page where they can:

  Search for and view a specific address location on the map
  Navigate (zoom in/out, pan, etc.) around the map in a mobile device-friendly manner
  View a specified gauge site location on the map and summary details for that site (bayou/stream levels and rainfall data)
  Specify the time period (e.g. 1 hour, 24 hours, 2 days, 7 days, etc.) for bayou/stream level and rainfall data
  View a gauge station's changes in bayou/stream elevation and rainfall accumulation over time
  View gauge station sites on the base map for partner agencies (Harris County is the default selection)
  View a map of Harris County and surrounding areas with watershed areas and boundaries
  View current weather information (air/road temperature, wind direction/speed, etc.)

Screen Shot of HC Flood Warning System Mobile Website Sample Gauge Site Location

The mobile website also lets users link to the Flood Warning System’s full (desktop) site, which was launched in June 2011. The desktop site has an address-input feature that allows users to access current and historical rainfall and stream levels on a county scale or at an individual gauge location, to export that information to Excel, and to print information displayed on the screen.

How the Flood Warning System Works


Screen Shot of Summary Details for Sample Gauge Site Location

Real-time information from gauges strategically located near bayous and streams throughout the county is transmitted to the Flood Control District’s Flood Warning System and Flood Watch teams.

The data-collecting sensors located within the gauges report each time the water levels in bayous and streams rise or fall more than one-tenth of a foot. Those sensors also collect rainfall data. When rainfall amounts reach a certain point – .04-inch of rain – the data is transmitted by radio frequency through a network to the Flood Control District’s Flood Warning System.

In addition, some gauges collect data on wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, air temperature, road temperature and humidity.

 
 
 
 
 
 
History of the Flood Warning System

The Harris County Flood Warning System launched in 1982 under the direction of the HCFCD and included 13 gauge stations. The new system was first tested during Hurricane Alicia in 1983 and proved successful in supplying rainfall and stream level data that had previously not been available. In 1996, the Flood Warning System moved to Houston TranStar under the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, which operated and maintained the gauges until 2009, when the system was transferred back to the Flood Control District.

From 1983 to 2007, the number of gauge stations increased from 13 to 132. The stations were strategically placed across Harris County to maximize rainfall coverage and get water level information at critical locations. Today the gauge network is part of a larger regional gauge network that gathers information from selected bayous, streams and roadways within and adjacent to Harris County. Partners in the larger network include the Texas Department of Transportation, Harris County Toll Road Authority, cities of Houston, Sugar Land and Pearland, the San Jacinto River Authority, Trinity River Authority, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County and Fort Bend County.

To learn more about the Flood Control District, visit www.hcfcd.org.

* The data presented on this mapping tool and website may be delayed by approximately five minutes.

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