ABC’s of your Health: Influenza activity is increasing throughout California

Influenza activity is increasing throughout the state and California Department of Public Health officials say it is not too late to get vaccinated and are encouraging residents to get the flu shot.

“It is important to get vaccinated now if you have not done so already,” said Dr. Karen Smith, CDPH director and state Public Health Officer. “I encourage everyone six months of age and older to be vaccinated to help protect themselves and others from the dangers of flu.”

According to the department, flu activity is occurring throughout every region of the state and above expected levels for this time of year. Although the severity of the flu season cannot yet be determined, Californians should take precautions, including vaccination.

On Jan. 11, the Fresno County Department of Public Health announced it has received confirmation that a male and a female adult were the first influenza-associated deaths younger than 65 years of age.

“The first influenza-related deaths have occurred in Fresno County. This is a somber reminder that we all must do everything we can to assure that influenza does not spread within our County,” said Dr. Sara Goldgraben, county Public Health Officer. “Protect yourself. It is never too late to vaccinate.”

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.

“Flu activity usually reaches its peak January and February, but typically continues to spread through the spring,” said Smith. “With most of the flu season still to come, it’s not too late to get vaccinated.”

Last season, 80,000 Americans died from the flu.

The San Joaquín County Public Health Services also recommends the annual flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older. People with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, children under 2 years of age, adults aged 65 and older, and nursing home residents are a high risk of developing flu-related complications, however, deaths can occur at any age.

Common symptoms of the flu include fever or feeling feverish, a cough and/or sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, chills, fatigue and body aches. Children may also have nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

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. People with flu can spread the virus to others up to 6 feet away when they cough, sneeze or talk.

▪ Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

▪ Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

San Joaquín County Public health officials said getting the flu vaccine is the best way to protect themselves against influenza and protect those around them as well.

Flu vaccine is available now and once administered, it takes the vaccine up to two weeks to fully protect against the flu.

Californians should contact their health care provider, pharmacy or a clinic about obtaining the flu vaccine. Some local health departments may also offer low- or no-cost flu shots.

For more information about the flu, including weekly updates on fly activity, visit the CDPH influenza web page.

To find a vaccine location near you, visit HealthMap Vaccine Finder. Simply enter your zip code or city and state to find mapped locations of flu vaccine clinics.

María G. Ortiz-Briones: 559-441-6782, @TuValleTuSalud