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Which Viruses Are Going Around This Time Of Year?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It feels like something is going around. At WCCO, at least five people in the newsroom were out sick Tuesday with everything from coughs to chills to laryngitis.

So, is it the flu? Is it a cold? What is this crud? Good Question.

"There is a crud going around, which is winter," said Dr. Meghan Walsh, an internal medicine physician with Hennepin County Medical Center.

She says there are a number of viruses – including colds, gastrointestinal viruses and influenza – circulating as they do every winter in Minnesota.

"We're seeing similar patterns this year, like we did last season, even a decade ago," Dr. Walsh said. "We tend to see with social media people more sick and suffering and that becomes communicated faster."

In general, colds are more mild and have symptoms of sore throat, cough and no or low-grade fever. The influenza virus is much more severe and comes with sore throat, cough, high fever and body aches.

"The reality is you cannot tell the difference except through influenza testing and even then we're not 100 percent perfect," Dr. Walsh said.

The symptoms of cold viruses and influenza are a person's immune system working. For example, the inflammation and mucus in the lungs try to hold on to the virus and keep it from spreading. The heat from the fever tries to slow down and kill the virus.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, the influenza virus is starting to peak a little earlier than usual this year. MN DoH Epidemiologist Karen Martin says that could be a due to a number of factors, including the type of virus, immunity within the community and the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Right now, the most common strain of influenza being reported in Minnesota is Influenza AH3. Last year, the vaccine for that strain was 32-percent effective. Martin says it's still too early to tell how effective this year's vaccine will be for that strain, but she does anticipate it to be similar.

"My two cents is it doesn't have to be perfect to be good," Dr. Walsh said. "The chance that this vaccine will help shorten the course or prevent you from getting sick altogether or even though you get one virus, help prevent you from getting a second virus this season, it's worth it."

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