Los Angeles County health officials reminded residents Tuesday that it’s not too late to get a flu shot.
The virus is now widespread and has hit that point earlier than in past years, according to health officials.
“Influenza typically peaks in January and February and can linger well into the spring, so vaccination for anyone over 6 months of age is still highly recommended,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, the county’s interim health officer.
“By getting vaccinated now, you can protect yourself at the time of year when you are most likely to be exposed to the flu virus,” he said.
Health officials urged everyone to frequently wash their hands and stay home when ill to reduce the spread of the flu.
Those at greater risk for complications include: pregnant women; children under 5 and adults 65 years old and older; people with weakened immune systems, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, or conditions affecting the nervous system; individuals who are overweight or obese; healthcare personnel and staffers in nursing homes or long-term care
facilities; and child care workers. Children 6 months to 8 years old should get a second flu vaccine dose this season for better protection, according to county health officials.
Most insurance plans cover vaccines at no cost and many pharmacies offer flu vaccines.
The county offers free flu vaccines for residents without insurance or a regular doctor.
More information can be found at http://bit.ly/FluVaccineInfo or by calling the county information line at 211.
Public health officials confirmed Wednesday the first two flu-related deaths of the 2015-16 flu season in Los Angeles County, noting that both patients had “significant” pre-existing medical conditions.
One patient was a southeast Los Angeles man in his 40s, and the other was a woman in her 90s from northwest Los Angeles. Both died during “the final days of 2015,” according to the county Department of Public Health.
“Even though influenza activity in California and much of the country is still at low levels, these deaths are a reminder that flu is circulating and potentially can cause serious illness,” according to Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, the county’s interim health officer. “We anticipate that influenza infections will increase as the winter season progresses, so getting vaccinated now will provide the best protection.
“In addition to the flu shot, practice basic hygiene, such as hand-washing, to prevent the spread of influenza and other respiratory diseases,” he said.
The county Public health website, www.publichealth.lacounty.gov, includes information on locations where people can go to get flu vaccinations
State health officials today confirmed that an infant in Stanislaus County had dies from the flu.
California Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith said it’s the “first influenza-related fatality in a person under the age of one year for the 2015-2016 flu season.”
“As California’s public health officer, I am saddened when the flu turns into loss of life,” Dr. Smith said. “It is especially troubling when a baby, too young to be vaccinated, passes away. To protect babies who cannot yet be vaccinated, we should get our flu shots. Preventing the spread of this often deadly disease is why getting vaccinated is so important.”
Health officials reminded the public that children under 6 months of age are at higher risk of severe influenza or flu because they are too young to be vaccinated.
However, newborns get some protection if the mother is vaccinated while pregnant.
Anyone who expects to be around a newborn or any other “high-risk” person should get vaccinated to reduce the risk of spreading the illness.
So far this year, overall flu activity has “been sporadic,” says Dr. Smith, but added that flu virus activity usually peaks from December to April.
Smith urged people to be vaccinated before the spread of illness reaches peak levels, “to protect yourself and those around you.”
Of the millions of people who contact the flu, hundreds of thousands will wind up in the hospital and thousands, to tens of thousands will die, according to California’s public health department.
To reduce this threat, CDPH recommends the annual flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older, including pregnant women. Two of this season’s vaccine components, the influenza A (H3N2) and influenza B (Yamagata lineage) strains, have been updated to match the viruses Californians are likely to face during the 2015-2016 flu season.
The elderly and people with weak immune systems are also at higher risk of serious complications from the flu, however, there were 78 influenza-associated deaths reported in persons under 65 years of age in California during the 2014-15 influenza season.
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, Californians should also:
—Stay home when sick;
—Cover a cough or sneeze with a tissue and properly dispose of the used tissue;
—Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
—Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
To find out where to get the flu vaccine, contact your primary physician, clinic or pharmacy. The Los Angeles County Health Department offers low- or no-cost flu immunizations. For more information about the flu visit the CDPH influenza web page .To find a flu vaccine location near you, visit www.flu.gov.