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H1N1 Flu On the Rise, Warn Health Officials

State health officials are warning Californians that many California counties, and other states, are reporting a rise in the number of patients who are critically ill with influenza, including healthy young adults, and are advising residents to take steps to prevent infection.

The H1N1 strain appears to be the predominant strain circulating so far in California and the country, according to health officials.

“The H1N1 virus, which emerged during the 2009 pandemic, causes more illness in children and young adults, compared to older adults. It causes severe illness in all age groups, including those younger than 65 years of age. This year’s influenza vaccine protects against the strains circulating in the state, including H1N1,” according to California’s Department of Public Health.

“It is not too late to get the flu vaccine,” urged Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and state health officer. “A yearly flu vaccine is the most important step in preventing influenza. It’s important to remember that unlike other vaccine preventable diseases, it is necessary to get a flu shot every year.”

The vaccine is still widely available at doctors’ offices, health clinics and many pharmacies, according to the health department.

An influenza vaccine is especially important for pregnant women and other people at higher risk for severe influenza.

“It’s impossible to predict the severity of a flu season, but the best way to prevent spread of the flu is to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Chapman.

In addition to being vaccinated, it’s crucial to practice good health habits. If you become ill, you should take actions to stop the spread of germs, including staying home when you are sick; covering your coughs and sneezes; washing your hands with soap/water and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

You can also protect your health by eating a nutritious diet and getting enough sleep, say health officials, who also strongly advise that you contact your physician if you think you have the flu.