California is experiencing a flu season that is above the expected levels and it’s unknown if the season is nearing the end.
Flu activity is occurring throughout every region of the state and above expected levels for this time of year, according to the California Department of Public Health.
As of Feb. 9, California has seen 38 outbreaks and recorded 207 deaths. The CDPH reported both the rates of hospitalizations and outpatient illnesses from influenza are at elevated levels.
In Stanislaus County there have been 10 deaths and 14 people admitted into intensive care units because of the flu for the 2018-19 season. Last season there were 37 ICU cases.
“Last year was a very severe year for influenza,” said Dr. Julie Vaishampayan, Stanislaus County Public Health Officer. “While we’re not seeing numbers as bad as last year, we are seeing a significant number of cases.”
The primary influenza strain circulating this season is the H1N1 strain, which past outbreaks have shown is a deadlier virus among young children than other strains. The H1N1 virus was declared a pandemic in 2009 when it rapidly spread around the globe, sickening millions of people. Stanislaus County is one of two counties in the state that has recorded a pediatric flu death this season.
Flu activity usually reaches its peak in January and February and will continue into the spring, possibly into the summer. With more of the season to go, health officials are encouraging people who already haven’t done so to go and get a vaccine shot.
“Flu can circulate all year long, so it’s never too late to get your flu shot,” said Dr. Vaishampayan.
Each year, the flu causes millions of
illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands or sometimes
tens of thousands of deaths in the United States.
Vaccinations are recommended for everyone six months of age or older. Flu shots are still available at many places, including doctors' offices, local health department clinics, and most pharmacies.
Flu illnesses can range from mild to severe. Flu-related issues can lead to hospitalization and sometimes death. The symptoms of flu can come on suddenly, and may include fever, chills, headache, fatigue and/or body aches, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting.
People experiencing flu-like symptoms should call their health care provider if their symptoms are serious or if there is trouble breathing, if they are pregnant, or have underlying medical conditions. Doctors may prescribe antiviral drugs for people sickened by the flu. Antiviral drugs can make the illness milder and shorten the time a person is sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia.
To stop the spread of flu and other respiratory illnesses, CDPH recommends these steps:
— Stay home when sick.
— Cover a cough or sneeze with an elbow or tissue and throw the tissue in the trash.
— Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
— Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.