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Sacramento County flooded with flu cases

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Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 12:00 am

Sacramento County Public Health has reported an increase in flu cases over the last two weeks and gone public with concerns about the return of swine flu.

Although San Joaquin County has yet to issue a similar warning, public health officials in the county and across the state are encouraging residents to get the flu vaccine if they have not already done so.

In Sacramento County, laboratory-confirmed flu cases increased from the week of Dec. 16 to the week of Dec. 23. The reports have identified three strains of flu circulating, including H1N1 — the 2009 pandemic strain commonly known as swine flu.

This year’s flu vaccine, which is readily available, covers all three strains of flu that have been detected.

Sacramento County Division of Public Health conducts flu surveillance by monitoring over-the-counter sales of related pharmaceutical products such as thermometers and cough syrup, monitoring weekly flu-like illness reports from select providers, and monitoring reports of laboratory-confirmed flu tests from health care providers.

Flu cases requiring Intensive Care Unit admission or resulting in death are reported to the State Department of Public Health. During the months of November and December, Sacramento County Public Health has received reports of five cases of flu admitted to the ICU, compared to one case reported to the ICU during the months of November and Dec. 2012.

Statewide, outpatient flu-like illness cases increased in a week to 2.5 percent, compared to 2.1 percent, according to the CDC.

Health officials recommend annual flu vaccinations for everyone six months of age and older. It’s especially important to be vaccinated if you have regular contact with people more vulnerable to complications from the flu, including babies, children with asthma and the elderly.

Sacramento County Public Health Division also recommends pregnant women be vaccinated to protect themselves and to help pass on some immunity to their baby.

From November through Dec. 2013, CDC has received a number of reports of severe respiratory illness among young and middle-aged adults, many of whom were infected with H1N1.

The H1N1 virus that emerged in 2009 caused more illness in children and young adults than in older adults, although severe illness was seen in all age groups.

While it is not possible to predict which flu strain will be predominant for the entire 2013-14 flu season, pH1N1 has been the most frequently occurring virus so far. For the 2013-14 season, if pH1N1 virus continues to circulate widely, illness that disproportionately affects young and middle-aged adults may occur, CDC reports.

Health officials encourage people to take everyday preventive actions like covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands often, avoiding contact with people who are sick and staying home when sick.

To get the flu vaccine, first check with your health care provider. If you cannot get the flu vaccine from your health care provider or you do not have a health care provider, the vaccine is available through a network of private doctors, clinics, pharmacies and public health centers.

If you need information about immunization services for children and adults, need to refer clients or get information regarding upcoming flu clinics, please contact the Sacramento County Immunization Assistance Program at 916-875-SHOT (916-875-7468) Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., or use the Flu Vaccine Finder at www.flu.gov or the HealthMap Flu Vaccine Finder located at flushot.healthmap.org.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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