Health officials: not too late for a flu shot

SACRAMENTO - State health officials say it is not too late to get vaccinated against the flu, even as California sees an increase in flu activity.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, health officials said. According to the California Department of Public Health, influenza activity in California is beginning to show a steady increase and is now considered to be widespread. There are currently "more hospitalizations at this point than expected," based on historical trends, said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the CDPH. "California is seeing an accelerated increase in flu activity over the past few weeks," said Chapman. "You can help prevent further spread of the flu by getting a flu shot." For the most recent reporting period, there have been seven confirmed influenza deaths in persons under 65 years of age reported to the CDPH. Twenty-eight more deaths are under investigation. Flu deaths in persons ages 65 and older are not reportable in California. 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. "The best defense against the flu is getting vaccinated. This year's vaccine is an excellent match against this year's influenza strains," said Chapman. "There is no shortage of vaccine in California and it is not too late to get vaccinated. Our flu season may not peak for several more weeks, so I encourage everyone to get vaccinated to protect not only themselves, but those with whom they come into contact." Vaccination is recommended for everyone over six months old, but officials say it is particularly important for persons at higher risk of severe influenza, such as pregnant women, obese people, and those with certain underlying medical conditions. In addition to getting vaccinated, Chapman urged residents to wash their hands frequently using soap and water, or an alcohol-based rub. Residents were also advised to avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth; cover their noise and mouth when coughing or sneezing; and stay home from work or school when sick.

********** Published: Feb. 6, 2014 - Volume 12 - Issue 43