FLU EPIDEMIC

STEEP RISE IN RECENT FLU CASES LOCALLY AND STATEWIDE

By Seth Conners

According to a press release from Richard Johnson at the Mono County Public Health Office,
A few weeks ago we reported all signs pointing to the beginning of a severe influenza season, and evidence continues to confirm that initial impression.
Locally, during the week ending last Saturday, January 14th, almost 21% of visits to Sierra Park Pediatrics were for influenza-like illness. This easily surpasses the previous highest % over the last 10 years for which we have records. Sierra Park Family Medicine recorded 2.2% of visits for influenza-like illness, which is just above the epidemic threshold.
Hospitalizations thus far this winter season include 6 infants with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), 5 adults with pneumonia, and 3 adults with laboratory confirmed influenza. 2 of the pneumonia cases, and all 3 of the influenza cases have been since the first of the year.
The California Department of Public Health calls recent trends “increasingly alarming”, with sharp increases in all measures of influenza activity. There are a large number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities, and a number of hospitals are having trouble finding room for all persons needing hospital care for pneumonia and/or influenza. Reports indicate the highest levels in the last 10 years. The steep increase occurred first in Northern California, but has now spread throughout Southern California. There have been 9 deaths from influenza-related causes in persons <65 years of age, 63 ICU admissions, and 47 outbreaks. These numbers are particularly disturbing given that we have not reached the peak of the influenza season as yet, which is usually the second week of February.
The good news is that the strains in this year’s vaccine are a good match for what is circulating. The bad news is that the main culprit is the Type A H3N2 strain, which tends to be the most severe, especially for those over 65 years of age. Getting a flu vaccine is still the single most important thing you can do to prevent illness, to lessen its severity, and to limit its spread. The supply is plentiful!
In addition, stay home if you are sick, and stay away from people who are sick. This is especially important for those over 65 years of age, or any with chronic medical conditions. Also, remember to cover your cough, wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth as much as possible.