It can start out as a case of the sniffles. But soon your friend has it, your brother or sister, your co-worker, and then it gets you. While it’s not uncommon to get the flu during the winter season, Public Health officials are alarmed after seeing a spike in influenza cases in California over the past three weeks.
“Although January and February are typically the peak of influenza season, the rapid increase is unusual,” said the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department in a statement released to the press. “An alarming increase in influenza outbreak in healthcare facilities, particularly skilled nursing facilities, has been reported.”
The severity of the flu virus has also increased this time around due to the type of strain, called Influenza A/H3N2. The elderly and those with weak immune systems are at greater risk,
However, health officials say the current influenza vaccine is “a good match for circulating strains” and urge the public to get vaccinated. Everyone 6 months and older are able to receive the vaccine.
Persons who are ill should stay home and have minimal contact with others, particularly those who have chronic health problems and are at increased risk for severe disease. Those who work in schools and healthcare facilities should practice frequent handwashing and avoid touching their faces and mouth.
The following information comes directly from the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department:
Early treatment of hospitalized influenza patients can reduce the severity of illness. The benefit of treating with oseltamivir, and anti-viral medication, is greatest when the medication is started immediately after symptom onset.
No resistance to this medication has been reported in California. Individuals who believe they may have the flu should seek medical care if they have underlying health conditions which predispose them to more severe illness. There is an adequate national and state supply of both the vaccine and the anti-viral medication.
Additional influenza vaccines are still available for clinics who administer them, including the Vaccines for Children (VFC) providers.
For more information about the flu virus, visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu/.
To find a vaccine near you, visit https://vaccinefinder.org/