Flu season on the wane

 

Flu Winding Down (from Inyo-Mono Health Officer Dr. Rick Johnson)

fluIt appears that we are in the last few weeks of the 2013-14 flu season, as activity continues to decrease nationwide.

That is good news, considering how severe this season has been compared to last year. So far, there have been 302 confirmed flu deaths in California, including 6 children. By this time last year, there were 34 deaths, with a total of 106 for the whole season. These severe outcomes remind us that flu can be a very serious disease for anyone.

Locally, we have not had any recent hospitalizations, and the numbers of positive flu tests and persons seen with flu-like illness is approaching baseline levels.

The 2009 H1N1 “swine flu” continues to be the most common strain. This is significant, because it causes severe disease and death among a population not usually considered at highest risk. More than 60% of hospitalizations have been in persons age 18-64. Younger adults and children, especially those with chronic medical conditions were hit hardest. Others, such as pregnant females, those morbidly obese, and American Indians, were also hit hard.

It is unfortunate that this group of younger adults, especially those who are otherwise healthy, are less likely to get vaccinated. Although the rates for those >65 and children are usually over 60%, only about 34% of this group of individuals is vaccinated.

If you have not been vaccinated, you can still do so. Even more important is to make a decision now to get vaccinated when flu vaccine becomes available next fall. The strains for the vaccine have already been selected, and production is underway. There is talk of a possible new vaccine patch becoming available in addition to the shot and nasal spray. Stay tuned for more details!

As the flu winds down, there are still many sick in our communities with other bugs, such as norovirus and RSV (respiratory syncitial virus). The usual precautions apply:

–       Stay home, and keep your kids home, when you/they are sick

–       Wash your hands frequently

–       Cover your cough

–       Seek medical care if you are sicker than usual or have chronic medical conditions

 

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