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State records first flu death of season

Health department urges vaccination

POSTED January 3, 2012 10:28 p.m.

News of the first influenza related death in California this year is prompting public health officials to urge residents to get a flu shot. The victim is an adult male in his late 30s from Kern County.

“This death is a somber reminder that the flu can be a serious and even deadly disease,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health and state public health officer. “I encourage Californians to get their flu vaccine to help protect themselves and their families.”

Flu symptoms include fever, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuff nose, headaches, body aches, chills and fatigue. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates national flu-associated deaths at 3,000 to 49,000 annually. 

Statewide influenza activity remains low, but flu season normally peaks between January and March. The seasonal flu vaccine is recommended for anyone over 6 months old and this year’s vaccine includes protection against H1N1 (formerly called swine flu). People at high risk for flu complications include pregnant women, people with chronic disease, children and older adults.

The California Department of Public Health recommends that anyone at special risk for complications, or their caregivers, get a flu shot. The shot contains vaccination against several flu virus types. In 17 of the last 21 flu seasons, the U.S. flu vaccine has been a good match for the circulating viruses.

Flu.gov was designed as a resource for anyone who is concerned about flu risks. The website covers prevention, treatment, and information about types of flu virus. It has tips for stopping the spread of influenza viruses, including washing your hands often, covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, and avoid touching your eyes.

One important factor for limiting the spread of flu viruses is staying home if you are sick, and not returning to work or school until 24 hours after you no longer have a fever. Limiting contact with others as much as possible can keep you from spreading the illness, the website states.

Flu.gov also has FluView, a program designed to track flu epidemics nation-wide. The map shows each state with a color indicating its risk level. California is currently under the lowest risk level of flu activity. Flu.gov also has a locator for local flu shot clinics. Turlock flu shot locations listed on the site include Safeway, Rite-Aid, CVS and Walgreens. Check local listings for dates and hours.

“Since the flu season can last through May, it is not too late to get a flu vaccine,” Chapman said. “There is plenty of flu vaccine available.”

To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail agoodwin@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.

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