OKLAHOMA COUNTY (KFOR)- The holidays are often a hot spot for contagious illnesses, but since the summer, parainfluenza has been up and down with numbers now on the rise.

David Kendrick M.D., M.P.H with MyHealth Access Network said Oklahoma currently sits at 24% for positive influenza cases.

In that mix is parainfluenza.

“We had a parainfluenza outbreak in the summer before the Delta variant of Covid and you can see we’re also in a rising trend of parainfluenza at the moment as well,” said Kendrick. “Our flu cases have really gone up to around the 10,000 mark where our highest peak has been in the last couple of years. Parainfluenza are case counts in the number of hundreds, not thousands or tens of thousands, at least that we’re detecting.”

Dr. Dale Bratzler with the University of Oklahoma Health told KFOR parainfluenza and influenza are very similar in terms of symptoms, so catching a patient with parainfluenza is difficult.

“From a clinical standpoint, when I see a patient that presents with what looks like a viral infection. I can’t tell the difference by just examining them,” said Dr. Bratzler.

The main difference Kendrick reports is that parainfluenza attacks both the upper and lower respiratory systems.

According to the CDC, symptoms of upper respiratory illness may include:

  • fever
  • runny nose
  • cough

Symptoms of lower respiratory illness may include:

  • croup (infection of the vocal cords (larynx), windpipe (trachea) and bronchial tubes (bronchi))
  • bronchitis (infection of the main air passages that connect the windpipe to the lungs)
  • bronchiolitis (infection in the smallest air passages in the lungs)
  • pneumonia (an infection of the lungs)

Other symptoms of HPIV illness may include:

  • sore throat
  • sneezing
  • wheezing
  • ear pain
  • irritability
  • decreased appetite

The CDC also reports those symptoms may not show up until two to seven days after exposure.

There are four types of parainfluenza.

HPIV-1 and HPIV-2 are commonly found in children.

Those symptoms are cold-like.

HPIV-3 is more often associated with bronchiolitis, bronchitis, and pneumonia.

HPIV-4 is recognized less often but may cause mild to severe respiratory illnesses.

Dr. Bratzler said he hasn’t seen a noticeable increase in OUH parainfluenza cases.

Although Stan Swartz M.D., M.P.H with WellOK said Oklahoma doctors are able to diagnose more patients because there’s more rapid testing available, Dr. Bratzler told KFOR, “We don’t have the host of rapid tests for many of the other respiratory viruses. And so a specimen usually has to be sent to a laboratory to get done. Oftentimes, those tests actually are quite expensive, so we don’t routinely do them, particularly in outpatients, because there is no treatment. It won’t change anything we do and there is no vaccine to prevent the disease. So we don’t do a lot of testing unless somebody is particularly sick.”

However, it’s recommended to get both the Covid and flu vaccine.

While it won’t fully prevent parainfluenza, it’ll work with the immune system to fight it off.

If you do contract parainfluenza, it’s recommended you isolate for about 10 days to be on the safe side.

Dr. Bratzler also suggests wearing a mask until recovery.

The good news is that health officials said parainfluenza is “less severe” than influenza.