WALLA WALLA -- There are two words Harvey Crowder has to say about the 2012 influenza season.
That said, if you're feeling like the flu should have been out of here already, you're right, noted the director of Walla Walla County Health Department. "It's about a month later than we'd normally expect to see it."
In turn, the delayed flu season is now running neck-and-neck with the "right-on-time" norovirus season, Crowder added.
Sometimes called "winter vomiting disease," this easily spread illness usually includes diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach cramping. You may also run a low-grade fever and experience chills, headache, muscle aches and a general sense of fatigue.
Then there are non-flu upper respiratory viruses that are plaguing the Valley, laying a number of victims low for the better part of a week or more. Those are defined not so much by coughing, but a general sense of malaise, he said. "You feel bad and incredibly tired."
Feeling a little icky now? Wait.
For the cherry on top, there is a family of ECHO -- Enteric Cytopathic Human Orphan -- viruses camping out locally.
Those nasty fellows hide out in the intestinal tract, are highly contagious and primarily target children and males.
Symptoms include headache, fever, rashes, a croupy cough -- basically it's a mild case of encephalitis, Crowder explained. "It causes inflammation of the brain and meninges (the membranes that surround the central nervous system). It's usually pretty low key."
Schools and other gathering places are playgrounds for these illnesses, he said. "Take all those two-legged vectors of disease and put them together and they share diseases really easily."
At Washington State Penitentiary, one unit has been isolated due to illness, according to spokeswoman Shari Hall.
While there were no new cases of illness over the weekend, Unit 8 was in isolation for 72 hours last week. Rather than sending inmates to the prison hospital, officials decided to keep the virus as contained as possible in that manner, Hall said. "Medical staff did checks, walking through the unit every few hours."
More Walla Walla Public School District students were actually sent home in February for the flu, said Jennifer Douglas, director of health services for the district. "But now we're sending home fevers."
She and Crowder are preaching the same message. Cover your cough, stay home if you're sick -- they really, really mean that.
"There's no need to share your misery," Crowder said. "And wash your hands. A lot. Use warm running water and soap. The alcohol-based hand sanitizers are acceptable but not as good as soap and water."