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Dr. Jerome Adams gives advice to prevent virus spread, diagnose strep

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Cold spells drive people indoors and spread the flu and respiratory viruses.

Holiday gatherings and traveling make the spread easier, says Dr. Jerome Adams, the WISH-TV medical expert and a former U.S. surgeon general.

Adams said on News 8 on Thursday that “we absolutely should expect that we’re going to see increased cases and the real key is making sure we utilize the knowledge and the tools we have to prepare for those cases and to make them not as consequential as they otherwise could be.”

When on a flight, no one knows who’s been vaccinated and who hasn’t. Vaccinations help stop the spread. “Whenever I’m traveling by by airplane, I make sure I wear a mask and I have an N95 or KN95 mask that I wear in the airport, that I wear when I’m getting on the plane, and that I keep on when I’m on the plane, except when I’m taking a quick drink.”

Flu season is in full swing, and people should expect cases to rise, Adams says. “I expect that we will continue to see more cases, specifically because it (flu season) started so early this year. When we have a season where you’re seeing early cases, you almost always see double peaks in that season. We typically don’t hit the height of flu season until around February or so, and so we’ve still got a long ways to go, and that’s why, again, it’s important for people to remember the flu shot this year is a really good match.”

With COVID-19, the federal government is again making free at-home tests available. Adams said, “They’re one of many tools that we have available, and here’s how I use my test. If I’m going to a family gathering or a gathering with other people, particularly people who may be vulnerable, that’s a good time to test beforehand to make sure you’re not an asymptomatic carrier of COVID into that situation. Certainly, if you have symptoms of any kind, that’s a good idea to test. Why? So that you cannot expose other people if you do have COVID but also because you can get treatments like Paxlovid to shorten the amount of time that you’re going to be infectious and maybe lower your chances of long COVID.

“You can go to the government’s website and get four free tests, and, if you have insurance, your insurance should pay for eight tests per month. Oftentimes, you can go right into a pharmacy and they can bill your insurance direct.”

Another threat this winter is strep throat, and some cases can be severe, Adams said.

“Strep is caused by bacteria. RSV, COVID, flu are caused by viruses. This is an important distinction because the treatment for strep is an antibiotic, and so you want to be able to distinguish whether or not you’re likely to have something that requires antibiotic treatment.

“Typically folks can look at their throat and when they see that redness, that inflamed nature in the throat, that’s how we as doctors know that you have strep and, in many cases, you can look in the mirror yourself and tell that you have strep, but what I tell people is typically it’s a severe sore throat. You can have swollen lymph nodes and you can have a fever. But, with a virus, you’ll typically have … a runny nose. You don’t typically get that with strep.”

“So if you’re having that fever, that severe sore throat, the lymph nodes swollen without a cough, without running nose, then that may suggest you have strep and you should call your doctor and find out the best way to get tested for strep is not necessarily to come into the emergency room. They may have you come to an urgent care center.”

Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.