Public health: Peak flu season approaches

Michael Saifullah gets a shot to the arm at the San Benito County Public Health flu clinic Thursday at the Veterans Memorial Building.

The San Benito County Public Health Department issued a reminder to residents about the upcoming peak to the flu season.
According to the announcement:
Anju Goel, MD, MPH, health officer for San Benito County, says that while we are seeing an increase in flu activity in our area, it is not too late to get vaccinated against the flu.
So far this season, influenza A H3N2 viruses have been most common. These strains have had the highest seasonal mortality levels of the past decade. Roughly half of the season’s H3N2 viruses that have been analyzed are ‘drifted’, which means they have some differences from the H3N2 virus included in this season’s vaccine.
“While the vaccine’s ability to protect against drifted H3N2 viruses this season may be reduced, we are still strongly recommending everyone to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Goel. “Immunizations given in past seasons against drifted viruses have still reduced the severity of disease or prevented many infections. In addition, immunization will offer protection against other flu viruses covered by the vaccine that may become more common later in the season.”
Depending on the formulation, flu vaccines protect against three or four different flu viruses. Even during a season when the vaccine is only partially protective against one flu virus, it can protect against the others.
Influenza activity in San Benito County appears to be increasing and, although Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital has had no admissions due to complications from the flu, local providers are seeing more patients with flu symptoms in their practices.
Dr. Goel also notes that in addition to getting vaccinated, frequent hand washing and other healthy habits are critical to prevent illness. People who are ill should take actions to stop the spread of germs such as: 

  • While sick, limit contact with others
  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based rub
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth

Flu vaccination is recommended for everyone six months of age or older, but is particularly important for those at higher risk of severe influenza, including pregnant women, children under five years of age, the elderly, and persons with certain underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity, asthma, and heart disease. Vaccination of pregnant women also helps to protect infants too young to be vaccinated.
This flu season is expected to be severe. Those at highest risk who show flu symptoms should contact their physician immediately in order to get the most effective treatment. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue.
Contact your health care provider or visit a local pharmacy to get immunized. San Benito County Public Health Department is also offering free or low-cost immunizations to eligible children from 6 months to 18 years of age. For more information about these services, please contact (831) 637-5367. Also, visit www.flu.gov for additional information about staying well during this influenza season.

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