From anecdotal reports, this flu season may shape up to be another bad one.
"It's as bad as last year so far and last year was bad," said Lawana Martin, a 29-year veteran registered nurse working in the emergency room at Eureka's General Hospital.
"We've been busy. People have been coming in coughing, achy and congested. We give them fluids often because they've been vomiting and are dehydrated."
"It's always bad this time of year," said Emily Sjordal, office manager at Eureka Family Practice. "We've seen a lot of bronchitis, colds, flu-like symptoms. It's just the Humboldt County crud."
But the coughy-achy-fevery-sneezies may not be official influenza.
"The flu is the term we use loosely, but the disease influenza something quite specific," said Jennifer Richmond, public health nurse for the Humboldt County Health Department.
It's a viral infection of the respiratory tract with symptoms including 100-103 degree fevers in adults (may be higher in children), cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, headache, muscle ache, fatigue and/or malaise.
"Flu typically lasts two to seven days," Richmond said. And while nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can sometimes accompany a genuine influenza infection, gastrointestinal illness, the so-called stomach flu, is not influenza.
What's new this year is that the health department is participating in the organized national surveillance of the disease for the Influenza Branch of the Center for Disease Control from October through mid-May.
Three "sentinel" sites have been chosen one local emergency room, one family health practice and one pediatric practice. The sites are reporting on the number of cases of flu-like illnesses and results of lab tests. The results so far have confirmed only two cases.
Does this mean there's a lot of malaise and not much real influenza?
Not at all, Richmond said.
Since there's no cure for the flu, there is little incentive for doctors to test for it. And test results take weeks to analyze by which time the patient is no longer ill.
Health care workers are handing out familiar advice: Get a flu shot especially if you work around lots of people. If you do get the flu, rest and drink liquids stay home to avoid exposing others. When you cough, do so in a tissue and throw it away or use your arm, not your hand.
On average, 20,000 Americans die from influenza complications each year. The major epidemic years include: 1918-19, the Spanish flu, 500,000 deaths in the U.S. and 20 million worldwide; 1957-58, the Asian flu, 70,000 deaths in the U.S.; and 1968-69, the Hong Kong flu, 34,000 U.S. deaths.
To what do we attribute the sunny, beautiful, mild December weather?
Abnormal weather conditions.
But that is expected to change this weekend on the first day of the new millennium.
According to Jeff Osienski, senior meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Eureka, local precipitation is only half of what it should be as of Dec. 28.
"It is unusually dry. We have had only 3.01 inches of precipitation when we normally have 6.04 inches. There are areas of high pressure in the upper atmosphere that create a blocking pattern which doesn't allow storms to pass.
"But the beginning of a pattern change is already underway with the usual wintertime pattern returning. The colder weather is coming," Osienski warned.
The city of Fortuna ran out of water two years ago and had to drill a number of wells before officials found a good one. The whole thing cost more than $10,000 and, well, they just might have to shut the town down because they're out of money.
That's Fortuna, N.D., population 31 not Fortuna, Calif., population 10,000-plus.
But the tiny Midwest town got help in a big way this Christmas. Checks have been pouring in to help ever since a former resident now living in Santa Rosa heard about its plight.
Wilbur Gehrke grew up in North Dakota just 20 miles from Fortuna. He not only sent the town $250 to help but challenged others to do the same.
Ed Tanferani, the owner of Fortuna Motors, and the Fortuna Chamber of Commerce in Fortuna, Calif., each sent $250 as well in addition to many others.
"We've now met our goal," said city auditor Beverly DeJardine. "We're sending out thank you notes to everyone. It's been great."
DeJardine said Gehrke also promised if the city met its $10,000 goal to get out of debt, he would also buy residents a $2,500 antique fire truck and donate it to a nearby historical society.
DeJardine apologized for having to take media calls in her home and not at city hall.
"City Hall is in the bar down the street and we really don't have our own phone," she said.
Former Rep. Frank Riggs, who served the North Coast from 1990-92 and again from 1996-98, has been named president and chief executive officer of the Home Builders Institute of the National Association of Home Builders.
Riggs has been working as a visiting fellow in education studies at the Heritage Foundation and living in Virginia since he left office,
Riggs was defeated in 1992 by Rep. Dan Hamburg. In 1998 he chose not to run for re-election to Congress, entering the U.S. Senate race instead. Riggs withdrew prior to the primary, citing fund-raising difficulties.
The Northern California Community Blood Bank wants your blood especially if you have Type O positive or negative.
The blood bank, located at 2524 Harrison Ave., Eureka, announced it is critically low and is asking the public for help. For more information, please call 443-8004.
The deadline for entry forms for the 19th annual History Day competition is Wednesday, Jan. 5.
The countywide event is expected to challenge hundreds of local schoolchildren. Middle and high school students from all over Humboldt County are preparing exhibits, papers, documentaries and performances for "Turning Points in History: People, Ideas and Events."
With sponsorship by Humboldt State University's history department, the contest will be held at various sites on campus. Students from sixth to 12th grades can choose and research any topic relating to turning points in local or world history.
Monetary prizes for the contestants will be donated by the County Historical Society in the amounts of $100, $200 and $300 for the three best papers. The League of Woman Voters will offer a certificate for the best paper about women.
Professor Delores McBroome, who has coordinated this event for nine years, describes History Day as, "a great way of promoting history and making it come alive to students. They can talk about history in ways that it matters to them. Every year there are new topics I know nothing about, and I learn about people, events and facets of history I've never heard of."
For information about guidelines, references and topics call 826-5770 or email to email@example.com