The flu season in California is surging, with recent reports of 42 fatalities in the state attributed to influenza since last October.
Influenza season runs from October through May, with most cases peaking in February. According to compiled statistics, more than 20 of those deaths have been among people age 65 and older. There have been seven flu-related pediatric deaths. None of the deaths have occurred in Santa Barbara County as of early January.
Though there are various strains of the flu, this season in California healthcare providers are observing H1N1, or Influenza A. It’s often called “swine flu.”
The Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, monitors and analyzes flu activity every week across the nation.
Flu vaccination protects against flu illness and reduces the risk of flu complications, including flu-associated hospitalization, admissions to the intensive care unit, and even death in children. According to the CDC, about 80 percent of the pediatric deaths reported during flu season occurs in children who have not been vaccinated against the flu. Last flu season, there were 185 pediatric deaths reported to the CDC.
The increased, or elevated, flu activity may last for weeks.
The CDC expects that significant flu outbreaks are still to come this season, so officials are urging vaccinations for anyone who has not yet received one. It takes about two weeks for protection from the vaccination to begin working.
While health officials note that the best way to prevent seasonal flu is to receive a vaccination, there are other habits you can use to help protect you – cover your cough and wash your hands as often as you can to help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses. Flu and other serious respiratory illnesses are spread by a cough, sneezes or unclean hands.
Here are some tips to keep you healthy:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- When you get sick, stay away from others. Stay home when you are sick – and that means not running errands where you can expose others.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. That small step may prevent those around you from getting sick.
- Clean your hands. Washing your hands often, or using an alcohol-based hand rub, will help protect you from germs.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are typically spread when you touch something contaminated with germs and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces at home, work or school, especially when you or someone around you is sick.
- Get plenty of sleep and drink fluids.
If you’re at work, it’s a good idea to routinely clean objects and surfaces such as keyboards, doorknobs and commonly used phones.
Also, it’s good to make sure your work site has plenty of tissues, soap, and disposable wipes.
If you begin to feel sick or suspect you have the flu, go home as soon as possible, to stop the spread of infection to others.