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Flu cases likely to increase dramatically

January 6, 2014

Last Friday, three days ago, Dr. Rick Johnson, the public health officer for both Mono and Inyo counties, sent out a flu update talking about the rapid increase in flu activity around the country. According to Johnson, over the weekend, more information about our local situation shows we are most likely on the cusp of a dramatic increase in local flu activity, probably due to travel by locals and visitors.

Here's why, according to Johnson:

- The Emergency Department at Mammoth Hospital yesterday reported 3 positive rapid flu tests, which almost doubles our seasonal total in one day. Two of them were Type A, which is the most serious and most common type circulating throughout the country.

- A 19 month old ex-premie with chronic lung disease was hospitalized with pneumonia, with a positive rapid flu test (Type B). This is our first hospitalization.

- School opens today!

- "I completed surveillance for influenza-like illness (ILI) in Sierra Park Pediatrics and Family Medicine through last Saturday," he wrote. "ILI is defined as cough and/or sore throat with documented fever >100 without other cause. The numbers are now double what they were before the holidays (about 300 visits per week, with a baseline of less than 1.5%, increasing now to 3.8% last week). None were older than 64 years of age – most were younger than 25 years of age. In addition, the numbers of persons seen with respiratory illness with a history of fever, but no documentation of a temp >100, is dramatically increased.

"I did not tabulate the numbers, but it was amazing to me to see how many of those with ILI, and especially chronic medical conditions, have NOT had a flu shot!

Given this current situation, I want to emphasize the importance of doing the right thing for yourself, your family, and your community."

Here's the best way to prevent the flu:

- It’s not too late to get a flu shot if you have not already done so. Check with your healthcare provider’s office, your pharmacy, or the health department.

- If you know someone is sick, make the choice not to be around them if possible!

- Stay home from work or school if you are sick. If you are a manager or supervisor, create a policy, and enforce it! Provide paid sick leave if possible.

- Cover your cough with your elbow or sleeve.

- Wash your hands frequently.

"Our goal is to prevent large scale illness (especially in our work places and schools), hospitalizations, and deaths in our community." he said. "We hope to blunt the impact of influenza in our community, so that we can all recover and be healthy and enjoy the outdoors when it finally snows!"

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