Tag Archives: dr richard johnson

Animal Planet show features local Jordan Herbst

Animal Planet’s “Monsters Inside Me” details Herbst’s fight with Hantavirus

by Arnie Palu

A popular Animal Planet program will feature the story of a Bishop boys struggle with Hantavirus.  The Animal Planet series “Monsters Inside Me” will air Thursday, December 10th at 10pm et/pt.  Animal Planet indicates that Jordan contracted Hantavirus after being exposed to mouse droppings near his home in Aspedell.  The story details Jordan’s battle with the deadly virus including his treatment at UC Davis.  Jordan has made a full recovery.

Jordan_Monsters Inside Me_3
Bishop Union High School Student Jordan Herbst (right) and his father. photo provided by Animal Planet

Dr. Richard Johnson, Inyo and Mono counties public health officer, notes that exposure to Hantavirus is fairly common in the Eastern Sierra with one to three cases reported each year.  No cases have been reported this year.  Dr. Johnson notes that while there is not peak hantavirus season, infections tend to occur in the spring when people open up spaces that have been closed up for the winter.  Dr. Johnson suggest that you eliminate or minimize contact with rodents in your home, workplace, or campsite.  Seal up holes and gaps in your home or garage. Place traps in and around your home to decrease rodent infestation. Clean up any easy-to-get food including pet food.

In regards to recognizing Hantavirus, Dr Johnson says that if you or a loved one are experiencing flu-like symptoms and it is not flu season, you should seek medical care.

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Back to School Time!

Back to School Preparation

by Dr. Richard Johnson, Inyo and Mono County public health officer

Ready for School – preschool through college?
Getting all of the recommended vaccines is one of the most important things a parent can do to protect their child’s health, especially when they are in a setting like a school or a child care center where disease outbreaks can occur. Whether it’s a baby starting at a new child care facility, a toddler heading to preschool, a student going back to elementary, middle or high school – or even a college freshman – parents should check their child’s vaccine records.
When parents are preparing to send their child off to day care, school or college, it’s the perfect time to check if he or she is up to date on recommended vaccines.
Child care facilities, preschool programs, schools and colleges are highly susceptible to outbreaks of infectious diseases. Children can easily transmit illnesses to one another due to poor hand washing, uncovered coughs, dense populations and other factors. When children aren’t vaccinated, they are at increased risk for disease and can spread disease to others in their classrooms and communities. This includes babies too young to be fully vaccinated and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer or other health conditions. Now is the time for parents to check with their child’s doctor, school or the local health department to learn about the requirements.
Follow the immunization schedule to provide your child with the best protection, and keep your child’s vaccine records current.
Between the time your child is born and when they go off to college, they’ll get vaccines to protect against a number of serious diseases.

Make sure that you provide your child care facility with updated vaccine records each time you visit the doctor to get another important dose of a vaccine.

Some children at your child care center may be too young for certain vaccines, and are therefore vulnerable to diseases. By keeping your children up to date on vaccines, you’ll be protecting their younger classmates as well. You will also be helping to protect people in your community with weakened immune systems, such as some people with cancer and transplant recipients, who are also at higher risk of disease.

Preteens and teens are at risk for diseases like meningitis and HPV cancers and need the protection of vaccines to keep them healthy and in school.

Vaccines are recommended for preteens and teens because:
Some of the childhood vaccines wear off over time, so adolescents need shots to stay protected from serious diseases like tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough).

As children get older, they are at greater risk of getting certain diseases like meningitis, septicemia, and HPV-related cancers. Specific vaccines, like HPV, should be given during the preteen (11 to 12) years because they work better at that age.
Vaccines not only protect your preteens and teens from serious diseases. They also protect siblings, friends and the people who care for them, like parents or grandparents.

Even healthy college students can get sick from vaccine-preventable diseases. Protection from vaccines received during childhood can wear off with time, and college students may also be at risk for other vaccine-preventable diseases like meningitis.
Many vaccine-preventable diseases can easily spread in child care and school settings.

Schools are a prime venue for transmitting vaccine-preventable diseases, and school-age children can further spread disease to their families and others with whom they come in contact. For example, they can spread disease to vulnerable newborns too young to have received the maximum protection from the recommended doses of vaccines, or people with weakened immune systems, such as some people with cancer and transplant recipients who are also at higher risk of disease.

From January 1 to June 26, 2015, 178 people in the United States have been reported to have measles. Measles is very contagious. It can spread through the air when people with measles cough or sneeze. It is so contagious that if one person has it, nine out of 10 people around him or her will also become infected if they are not protected. An infected person can spread measles to others even before knowing he or she has measles – up to four days before the telltale measles rash appears.

Vaccines are among the safest and most cost-effective ways to prevent disease. Protecting your children from preventable diseases will help keep them healthy and in school.

When a child comes down with a disease such as whooping cough, chickenpox or the flu, he or she may miss a lot of school while recovering – and somebody will need to stay home to provide care and make trips to the doctor.

If you haven’t already, check your child’s immunization record and schedule a visit to their physician or clinic. Doing so now will avoid a potential last minute rush and will help make sure there are no surprises on the first day of school.

Schools require children to be up to date on vaccinations before enrolling or starting school in order to protect the health of all students. If you are unsure of the immunization requirements, check with your child’s doctor, school, child care provider, college health center, or local health department.

Vaccines are recommended throughout our lives. Young adults need vaccines too, especially when they are college bound.

The need for vaccination does not end in childhood. Vaccines are recommended throughout our lives based on age, lifestyle, occupation, travel locations, medical conditions, and previous vaccination history.

Even healthy young adults can get sick from vaccine-preventable diseases. Protection from vaccines you received during childhood can wear off with time, and you may also be at risk for other vaccine-preventable diseases.

You can send your kids off to college protected from serious diseases by making sure they’ve received all the vaccines recommended for them. Far too few adults are receiving the recommended vaccines, leaving themselves and their loved ones unnecessarily vulnerable to serious diseases.

Talk to your child’s healthcare provider or the health department to make sure your children get the vaccinations they need when they need them.

Take advantage of any visit to the doctor – checkups, sick visits, even physicals for sports or college – to ask the doctor about what vaccinations your child needs.

Families who need help paying for childhood vaccines should ask their health care provider or the health department about the Vaccines for Children program or other low cost programs, which provide vaccines at little or no cost to eligible children who do not otherwise have access to immunizations.

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Be Safe this Weekend

Smoke, Lightning, and Heat

Inyo and Mono County Public health Officer Dr. Richard Johnson is passing along an important message.  Several risk factors are in play this weekend, high temperatures, thunderstorms, and smoke from wildfires.  Please take note and be safe.

From Dr. Richard Johnson:

Below is a summary of key points to keep in mind for the next few days —

  • Smoke — with fairly light winds today smoke from the various fires will tend to ooze around in various directions. Degraded air quality is likely in communities throughout the Eastern Sierra. After settling into the valleys at night where concentrated areas of thick smoke are possible, wind projections suggest a slight westward movement though again winds are light so the smoke will tend to move randomly/slowly. Advice — Communities with outdoor events should have contingencies in case the smoke becomes thick enough to impact health, and monitor statements from Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District at:

http://www.gbuapcd.org/healthadvisory/

  • Thunderstorms — moisture aloft working into the region will lead to buildups Thursday afternoon followed by decent chances for thunderstorms each day Friday through early next week. Confidence is still medium due to uncertainties in how isolated or widespread storms may be.
    • Friday/Saturday – fast moving storms over the Sierra and far western Nevada are likely to be dry with potential for new fire starts from lightning, and particularly strong and unpredictable outflow winds. Fire suppression efforts would be impacted by these microbursts. 
    • Sunday/Monday – we’re likely to see a transition to wetter storms with an increased risk of flash flooding. Be aware of your flash flood hot spots and have a plan. Important — Areas around and downstream of fires are at enhanced risk of seeing flash flooding and debris flows if storms develop overhead Sunday/Monday.
  • Heat — confidence remains high in a heat wave impacting the region, with the core of the hottest temperatures Thursday-Saturday, possibly lasting into Sunday for western Nevada. 100-107 in the western Nevada Valleys and 85-90 in the Sierra at Tahoe and Mammoth elevations, which are near or exceeding daily record highs. Advice — keep an eye on those prone to heat illness. Extra heat precautions should be considered for outdoor events and fire suppression activities Thursday through the weekend. Also – have a thunderstorm/lightning plan…

As temperatures rise over the next few days, we are reminding residents and visitors that heat-related illnesses can be deadly and are urging people to take precautions to avoid them. There are simple steps people can take to keep risk at a minimum.

1. Drink Plenty of Fluids – Even If You Don’t Feel Thirsty

Increase your fluid intake regardless of your activity level. During heavy exercise in hot weather, drink 2-4 glasses (16-32 ounces) of cool fluids each hour.

2. Stay Cool Indoors–The most efficient way to beat the heat is to stay in an air conditioned area. If you do not have an air conditioner or evaporative cooling unit, consider a visit to a shopping mall or public library for a few hours.

3. Stay Cool Outdoors

Plan activities so that you are outdoors either before noon or in the evening. In the hot sun, a wide-brimmed hat will keep the head cool. While outdoors, rest frequently in a shady area.

4. Monitor Those at High Risk

If you are 65 years of age or older, have a friend or relative call to check on you twice a day during a heat wave. If you know anyone in this age group, check on them at least twice a day. When working in the heat, monitor the condition of your coworkers and have someone do the same for you.

5. Pace Yourself

If you are unaccustomed to working or exercising in hot weather, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, stop all activity, get into a cool or shady area, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak, or feel faint.

6. Use Common Sense

Do not leave infants, children, or pets in a parked car. Bring your pets indoors with you to protect them. Give your outdoor animals plenty of fresh water, leave the water in a shady area, and consider wetting the animal down. Those at highest risk of heat-related illness are the very young, the elderly, and those who must work outdoors in extremely high temperatures. Sudden rise in body temperature and dehydration can lead to heat stroke or heat exhaustion. If not addressed quickly, brain damage or death can result. “High temperatures like those we expect in the next few days and throughout the summer can have serious health consequences.” People can avoid lots of problems if they just use a little common sense such as: never leaving infants, children or pets in a parked car, as temperatures can soar rapidly and cause severe brain injury or even death; drinking plenty of fluids that don’t contain caffeine or alcohol (these cause dehydration); staying indoors preferably in an air-conditioned environment such as libraries, stores, or restaurants; and, limiting strenuous activities between noon to 6 p.m., when temperatures tend to be highest.

cover photo by Gary Young.  Haze in Bishop from the Washington Fire near Markleeville

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Dr Johnson talks Wildfire Smoke

Health Effects from Wildfire Smoke

Dr Richard Johnson, Inyo and Mono county health director, issued a statement today (Monday, June 22) addressing wildfire smoke. The Washington fire near the community of Markleeville is estimated near 8,000 acres.  The lightning caused fire started on Friday, June 19th.

Dr. Johnson’s statement:

Those of you in Mono County from the communities of Walker and north have undoubtedly seen the smoke from the Washington Fire burning in Alpine County. Although most of the smoke is blowing over us and into Nevada, as the wind has died down during the night, smoke has settled into the valleys this morning. Keep in mind that this is a very fluid and ever changing situation, dependent on the fire, fuel, control efforts, and the wind. Our prayers are with the large numbers of dedicated personnel who are making tremendous efforts to protect all of us, our homes, and the environment.
Some communities in the Eastern Sierra have access to continuous particulate matter (PM) monitoring. These monitors provide an instant reading of particulate matter concentrations averaged over one hour. Smoke from wildfires is a mixture of gases and fine particles from burning trees and other plant materials. It is these fine particles which are contained in wildfire smoke which make it so hazardous to our health. Smoke can hurt your eyes, irritate your respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases.
Unfortunately, there is no monitoring in the areas currently impacted by smoke. Areas without monitoring need other ways to estimate particle levels. The following index is useful in judging the levels near you on a continual basis.
Good (can see 11 miles or more) – No cautionary statements.
Moderate (can see 6-10 miles) – Unusually sensitive people should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion.
Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (can see 3-5 miles) – People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.
Unhealthy (can see 1½-3 miles) – People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion. Everyone else should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.
Very Unhealthy (can see 1-1½ mile) – People with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should avoid all physical activity outdoors. Everyone else should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion.
Hazardous (can see 1 mile or less) – Everyone should avoid all physical activity outdoors; people with heart or lung disease, older adults, and children should remain indoors and keep activity levels low.
How to tell if smoke is affecting you:
Smoke can cause—
Coughing,  A scratchy throat, Irritated sinuses, Shortness of breath, Chest pain, Headaches, Stinging eyes, A runny nose, Asthma exacerbations.  If you have heart or lung disease, smoke might make your symptoms worse.
People who have heart disease might experience—
Chest pain, Rapid heartbeat, Shortness of breath, Fatigue.
Smoke may worsen symptoms for people who have pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as respiratory allergies, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), in the following ways:
Inability to breathe normally, Cough with or without mucus, Chest discomfort, Wheezing and shortness of breath.
When smoke levels are high enough, even healthy people may experience some of these symptoms.  Know whether you are at risk
If you have heart or lung disease, such as congestive heart failure, angina, COPD, emphysema, or asthma, you are at higher risk of having health problems than healthy people. Older adults are more likely to be affected by smoke, possibly because they are more likely to have heart or lung diseases than younger people. Children are more likely to be affected by health threats from smoke because their airways are still developing and because they breathe more air per pound of body weight than adults. Children also are more likely to be active outdoors.

What should you be doing:
1. Stay indoors with windows and doors closed; run air-conditioner on “recirculate” setting. Keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside. Minimize the use of swamp coolers. If it becomes too warm indoors, individuals may consider leaving the area to seek alternative shelter.
2. Do not add to indoor pollution. When smoke levels are high, do not use anything that burns, such as candles, fireplaces, or gas stoves. Do not vacuum, because vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home. Do not smoke, because smoking puts even more pollution into the air.
3. Follow your doctor’s advice about medicines and about your respiratory management plan if you have asthma or another lung disease, Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen. If you evacuate, make sure you take all essential medications along with you.
4. Do not rely on dust masks or N95 respirators for protection. If you wish to wear something, use a wet handkerchief or bandana to cover your mouth and nose. The key – keep it moist.
5. When driving make sure to drive with the windows rolled up and the air conditioner on “recirculate.” Also, buckle up – and do not drink and drive!
6. Minimize or stop outdoor activities, especially exercise, during smoky conditions.
7. People who must spend time outdoors should drink plenty of fluids.
8. Additionally, pet owners should consider bringing their pets indoors out of the unhealthy air conditions, if possible. This is especially important for older pets.
9. Stay tuned to local radio and TV for emergency announcements about air quality.
10. Stay in touch with family and friends, especially if you live alone. Exercise your communications plan.

cover photo, smoke rising from the Round Fire, photo by Gary Young

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Hanta Virus update

Health officer rumor control

Inyo and Mono county public heath officer Dr. Richard Johnson is dispelling rumors of a virus circulating in the community of Mammoth.  According to Dr. Johnson there is a unconfirmed rumor that is being circulated that there is “a nasty virus circulating that is killing people in town”. In response, at least one residence has been “tented” to eliminate this risk. Dr. Johnson is presuming – perhaps incorrectly – that the alleged culprit is the hantavirus.

According to Dr. Johnson, “First, there is no nasty virus killing people in town, that I am aware of – hantavirus, or otherwise. We have not had a case of hantavirus this year in the Eastern Sierra, although there have been at least 3 deaths in Colorado so far. We also have not had any unexplained deaths due to a “nasty virus”.

Johnson goes on to say, “Second, ‘tenting’ as one would do for termites, is not an appropriate response to the threat from hantavirus. If you create a void by killing off mice, more will move in to fill the void. Third, yes, we live in an area where we all are always at risk for exposure to the hantavirus. The drought is forcing all animals, including mice, into the human interface where we have chosen to live and visit, in their search for food for survival. So, don’t let down your guard. Do the right thing!”

Although mice carry the hantavirus all year, this is the start of the season when humans typically begin activities that put them at risk of being exposed to the hantavirus. Spring cleaning activities, such as opening up closed buildings that have been unused overwinter, often provide habitats for deer mice and become sites for human exposure to the hantavirus. Although hantavirus infections are relatively rare, it is not unusual for us to have several cases per year in the Eastern Sierra. The risk of death is significant. Individuals cleaning areas where the mice may be present are well advised to heed the recommendations below in order to avoid exposure.

Hantavirus is carried by certain species of rats and mice, and especially the deer mouse, pictured above. Infected rodents shed the virus in their urine, droppings, and saliva. The virus can be transmitted to people when infected mouse urine, saliva, droppings, or nesting materials are stirred
up, temporarily aerosolizing the virus, which can be breathed in by humans.

Inyo/Mono public health recommends the following precautions:

  • seal openings that may allow mice to enter homes and workplaces;
  • remove brush, woodpiles, trash, and other items that may attract mice;
  • tightly close garbage cans, pet food containers, and other food
    sources;
  • wear protective gloves to handle dead mice or to clean up nesting areas, urine, or droppings;
  • before cleaning up nests or droppings found inside, open windows and doors to ventilate the area for at least 30 minutes;
  • do not stir up nests by sweeping or vacuuming. Dampen areas before clean-up;
  • use a disinfectant or 1-to-10 bleach-water mixture to clean up dead rodents, nests, urine, and droppings.

Early symptoms of hantavirus infection include fatigue, fever, and muscle aches. These symptoms may be accompanied by headaches, dizziness, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Later symptoms include coughing and shortness of breath. If hantavirus is suspected, people should contact their health care provider immediately. Remember, infections with hantavirus may feel like the “flu”; however, it is no longer flu season!

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Local Flu Activity on the Rise

Intense Local Flu Activity

Inyo and Mono County public health officer Dr. Richard Johnson has issued a statement indicating an uptick in local flu activity.  According to Dr. Johnson, ” All evidence points to intense local flu activity throughout Inyo and Mono County”.   Johnson notes that some schools are having the highest absentee rates he has ever seen, with day care centers have documented cases among those in the highest risk age groups.  At least one facility is on voluntary “lock-down” to protect persons from further spread.  Sierra Park Clinics are seeing influenza-like illness at epidemic levels, especially in Pediatrics, with levels approaching the highest he has ever seen.
Anecdotally, Emergency Departments are full of persons with possible influenza.  Fortunately, Dr. Johnson says he is not aware of an increase locally in hospitalizations for pneumonia or flu-like illness,  and no one has been transported out of the area, and no deaths have occurred locally associated with the flu.

Dr. Johnson’s Tips  if you get the Flu
1 – Stay at home and rest.
Most people who get the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. You should stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without using fever-reducing medication. DO NOT go to work or school if you still have had a fever in the last 24 hours.
Employers – Please encourage and enable those who are sick to stay home!! Screen arriving employees, and send home those who are sick.
2 – Avoid close contact with people.
While sick, you should limit contact with others to keep from infecting them, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and throw it away after the first use. You should wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
3 – Drink plenty of water and other clear liquids
You should drink plenty of clear fluids as soon as the first flu symptoms appear to avoid dehydration. Water is fine, but soup is better. You should eat nourishing food as well as pass on alcohol or caffeinated beverages.
4 – Treat fever and cough with over-the-counter medications
Fever reducers, antihistamines, decongestants and cough medicines could help you feel better, but those won’t help you recover any faster. Flu symptoms may last up to two weeks.
5 – Call a doctor if extremely ill.
If symptoms are severe or if you are pregnant, 65 years or older or have a chronic medical condition, you should call your doctor. The doctor might recommend antiviral drugs to treat your flu.
Millions of people avoid getting sick every year by getting a flu shot or practicing good hand-washing hygiene. Everyone six months and older should get a flu vaccine every year. The vaccine is safe and effective. It takes two weeks for immunity to develop. Although not as effective this year as it usually is, it still is the most important thing you can do to reduce your chances of getting sick.There are several flu strains circulating in the region, so if someone has already got a flu and have recovered from it, they could get sick again.

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Eastern Sierra Flu Update

Flu activity is up

Inyo and Mono County Public heath officer, Dr. Richard Johnson is offering an update of flu activity, stressing the importance of early treatment for those at high risk of complications….Over the last month, seasonal influenza has spread rapidly across the United States in epidemic proportions. Evidence also points to a dramatic rise in cases seen last week at Sierra Park Clinics and Mammoth Hospital’s Emergency Department in Mammoth Lakes.
Seasonal flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. Many people use “stomach flu” to describe illness with nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Many different viruses, bacteria, or parasites can cause these symptoms. While the flu can sometimes cause vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea—more commonly in children than adults — these problems are rarely the main symptoms of the flu. The flu is a respiratory disease and not a stomach or intestinal disease.
Approximately 5-20% of U.S. residents get the flu each year. It typically starts in late fall, and peaks in mid-February, although it looks like the peak will be in mid-January this year. Nevada has been hit hard, and cases in California are increasing rapidly.
Most experts believe that you get the flu when a person with the flu coughs, sneezes, or talks and droplets containing their germs land in your mouth or nose. You can also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching your mouth, eyes, or nose.
Some groups are more likely to experience complications from the seasonal flu, including:
Seniors (those age 65 and older)
Children (especially those younger than 2)
People with chronic health conditions
If you believe you have the flu, and especially if you are in one of the categories at high risk for complications, please contact your health care provider early, as antiviral medication may be indicated to prevent serious illness or complications for you.

Complications from the flu include:
Bacterial pneumonia
Ear or sinus infections
Dehydration
Worsening of chronic health conditions
Each year more than 200,000 people are hospitalized for flu-related complications, and more than 25,000 die each year, including dozens of children, some with no pre-existing conditions.
Most people who get the flu feel much better within one or two weeks. Most healthy adults can infect others one day before symptoms develop and five to seven days after symptoms appear. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be contagious for a longer period.
We will continue to monitor flu activity in our community over the next few months. We do this by tabulating positive laboratory tests, school absenteeism rates, hospitalizations and deaths, and clinic and Emergency Department visits for flu-like illness.
During this season, we ask you to:
1. Get your flu vaccine from your healthcare provider, pharmacy, or health department!! The best protection against seasonal flu is the flu vaccine. Although not a perfect match this year, getting a vaccine is still the single most important thing you can do to prevent illness. It is late – but not too late!
2. Stay away from people who are sick as much as possible.
3. Stay home if you are sick.
4. Follow the everyday steps such as washing your hands frequently and covering your nose and mouth with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough or sneeze.
5. Seek medical care early if you are at risk for complications.

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Flu Update

Eastern Sierra Flu Update

Inyo and Mono County public information officer Dr. Richard Johnson is urging folks to gear up for flu season.  Dr. Johnson has submitted the following report.

Flu Season May Be Severe
It’s time to turn our attention away from Ebola for a moment, and focus on influenza. Two people have died from Ebola so far in the United States, but many thousands are expected to die from influenza infections and complications this winter.
Current Situation
The flu season has begun earlier than last year, with high levels of illness being reported from states in the southeast. Five pediatric deaths have been reported so far. Over 500 hospitalizations have been reported nationally. Southern California is reporting increased flu activity, with an outbreak in a long-term care facility occurring already. Only sporadic activity has been reported in the Eastern Sierra so far.
Two additional facts are cause for concern:
Influenza A (H3N2) viruses are most common so far (91% of 1,200 specimens tested). Seasons in which this strain predominates are associated with more severe illness and death, especially in older people and young children.
More than half of the specimens analyzed so far indicate that the virus circulating in the community has mutated. This means that the vaccine will not be as effective as it usually is.
What Should You Do?
1.Get your flu vaccination from you healthcare provider, pharmacy, or health department. This is still the single most important thing you can do to prevent serious illness or death from the flu. Getting a vaccine that provides at least partial protection may be more important than ever. Even though there may be decreased protection against the drifted strains, cross protection may reduce the likelihood of severe outcomes such as hospitalization and death. The time to act is NOW, since the vaccine takes effect after 2 weeks. This means you have little time to get vaccinated before seeing grandma or the grand-kids during the holiday season. Annual flu vaccination is recommended for all persons aged >6 months, and is particularly important for persons who are at increased risk for severe complications from the flu, including:
a.all children aged 6 months through 5 years of age and persons >64 years of age
b.anyone who has chronic pulmonary, cardiovascular, renal, hepatitis, neurological, or metabolic disorders
c.persons who have suppressed immune systems due to disease or medication
d.women who are or will be pregnant during the flu season
e.children and adolescents on long-term aspirin therapy
f.residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
g.American Indians/Alaska Natives
h.Persons who are morbidly obese (BMI>39)

2.As always, but even more important this year, people at high risk for serious flu complications should see a health care professional promptly if they get flu symptoms, even if they have been vaccinated. There are 2 prescription drugs that can be used to treat the flu or to prevent infection with flu viruses following exposure. Treatment with these antivirals works best when begun within 48 hours of getting sick, but can still be beneficial when given later in the course of the illness. They can make your illness milder and shorter, and can lessen the risk of being hospitalized or dying from the flu. They are effective across all age and risk groups.

3.And, of course, take everyday preventive actions to prevent infection with and spread of infections:

a.Cover your coughs and sneezes with your sleeve or elbow
b.Stay away from sick people
c.Stay home from work or school if you are sick
d.Wash your hands often

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