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Health officer urges flu vaccination before peak season

January 13, 2014

The flu season is in full swing in California, but it is still not too late to get a flu shot that will give you a much higher chance of avoiding the flu, health officials said.

"While we are seeing an increase in flu activity in California, it is not too late to get vaccinated against the flu, said Dr. Rick Johnson this week.

"California, and the Eastern Sierra, is seeing an accelerated increase in flu activity over the past few weeks" he said in a news release. "In fact, as of last week, the flu is now considered widespread throughout California for the first time this season."

While influenza activity varies from year to year and is unpredictable, California generally sees an increase in cases in late December or early January and it often peaks in February or March. According to all indicators, influenza activity in California has been showing a steady increase for the last few weeks.

Currently, there are more hospitalizations at this point than expected, based on historical trends. This increase is earlier than last year, but does not necessarily translate into a season that is more severe.

For the most recent reporting period, there have been seven reported and confirmed influenza deaths in persons greater than 65 years of age. Twenty-eight more deaths are under investigation. The H1N1 strain appears to be the predominant strain so far this flu season and is one that is contained in the current flu vaccine. You may recall that this strain tends to particularly attack those under 65 years of age.

The best defense against the flu is getting vaccinated. This year's vaccine is an excellent match against this year's influenza strains. There is no shortage of vaccine in the Eastern Sierra and it is not too late to get vaccinated. Our flu season may not peak for several more weeks, so we encourage everyone to get vaccinated to protect not only themselves, but also their household members, and our communities.

Vaccination is recommended for everyone over six months old, but is particularly important for those persons at higher risk of severe influenza, such as pregnant women, and persons with certain underlying medical conditions.

In addition to getting vaccinated, it's important to practice good hand washing and other good health habits. People who are ill should take actions to stop the spread of germs such as:

While sick, limit contact with others – stay home from work or school!
Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, with your sleeve or elbow
Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based rub
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth

Those at highest risk - the elderly, pregnant women, infants, or those with other health conditions - who show flu symptoms should contact their physician immediately in order to get the most effective treatment. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue.

Visit your healthcare provider, pharmacist or health department to get immunized.

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