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Local flu season may get worse; there's still time to get vaccinated

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Posted: Friday, February 15, 2008 10:00 pm

Dr. Karen Furst, public health officer for the San Joaquin Medical Society, said while this year's local flu season seems about normal, it could become worse.

"It hasn't been a big season so far, (but) it is still on the rise … the season could go on for another month or so," Furst said.

Often the most common symptoms of influenza, a common flu virus, include body aches, chills, fevers, and dry coughs. However, people can have the virus in their system and not even feel symptoms until up to four days later according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

And, with winter weather keeping people inside and in closer contact with one another, it is more common to pass germs to family, co-workers, and others. So, how do you protect yourself?

Three schools in Lodi Unified have found a way to help students stay healthy this year.

Heritage Elementary, Joe Serna Jr. Charter School and Westwood Elementary received a grant and have been working with Health Plan of San Joaquin to install hand sanitizing stations in classrooms for students and teachers to use about four times a day, according to Pam Meerdink, school nurse for Lodi Unified.

The teachers choose what time of day their students will use the sanitizer, however, they most often have the children use it when they come to school, after morning recess, before lunch and after lunch recess.

The program is in its trial stage and supporters hope it will decrease absenteeism among both students and teachers.

However, for those not using hand sanitizer, Furst and Meerdink recommend taking a few precautions when ill or dealing with people who are sick.

"If you are sick, cover (your) cough or sneeze, and wash your hands so you can't pass it on," Furst said.

She also recommended that people suffering from respiratory illnesses should stay home from work and children who are sick should stay home from school as well.

Meerdink recommends avoiding close contact with people who are sick, not to even sit next to them because if they cough or sneeze, it is easy to pick up the germs from the air.

"When they cough, imagine how far the air goes," Meerdink said.

And, although, for those who are suffering through the flu right now, it may be too late, others can still get vaccinated.

Local flu vaccine clinics include Lodi Urgent Care, Monday through Friday 5-8 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and Safeway on Kettleman Lane (by appointment only).

By Mike Stobbe
Associated Press Medical Writer

ATLANTA - The flu season is getting worse, and U.S. health officials say it's partly because the flu vaccine doesn't protect against most of the spreading flu bugs.

The flu shot is a good match for only about 40 percent of this year's flu viruses, officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

The situation has even deteriorated since last week, when the CDC said the vaccine was protective against roughly half the circulating strains. In good years, the vaccine can fend off 70 to 90 percent of flu bugs.

Infections from an unexpected strain have been booming, and now are the main agent behind most of the nation's lab-confirmed flu cases, said Dr. Joe Bresee, the CDC's chief of influenza epidemiology.

It's too soon to know whether this will prove to be a bad flu season overall, but it's fair to say a lot of people are suffering at the moment. "Every area of the country is experiencing lots of flu right now," Bresee said.

This week, 44 states reported widespread flu activity, up from 31 last week. The number children who have died from the flu has risen to 10 since the flu season's official Sept. 30 start.

Those numbers aren't considered alarming. Early February is the time of year when flu cases tend to peak. The 10 pediatric deaths, though tragic, are about the same number as was reported at this time in the last two flu seasons, Bresee said.

The biggest surprise has been how poorly the vaccine has performed.

Each winter, experts try to predict which strains of flu will circulate so they can develop an appropriate vaccine for the following season. They choose three strains- two from the Type A family of influenza, and one from Type B.

Usually, the guesswork is pretty good: The vaccines have been a good match in 16 of the last 19 flu seasons, Bresee has said.

But the vaccine's Type B component turned out not to be a good match for the B virus that has been most common this winter. And one of the Type A components turned out to be poorly suited for the Type A H3N2/Brisbane-like strain that now accounts for the largest portion of lab-confirmed cases.

Over the years, the H3N2 flu has tended to cause more deaths, Bresee said.

This week, the World Health Organization took the unusual step of recommending that next season's flu vaccine have a completely different makeup from this year's. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to make its decision about the U.S. vaccine next week.

H3N2 strains are treatable by Tamiflu and other antiviral drugs, but the other, H1N1 Type A strains are more resistant. Of all flu samples tested this year, 4.6 percent have been resistant to antiviral medications. That's up from fewer than 1 percent last year.

"This represents a real increase in resistance," Bresee said.

Common symptoms of the flu

High fever
Muscle aches
Dry cough
Tiredness
Chills
Headache
Runny nose (more common in children than adults)

Source: http://www.flufacts.com.

Tips for staying healthy during the flu season

• Wash your hands frequently for about 20-30 seconds each time.

• Cough and sneeze into your elbow or shoulder so the germs are not airborne.

• Avoid coming in contact with people who are sick at all costs.

• Make sure to sleep enough at night, exercise and eat healthy foods.

Sources: Dr. Karen Furst and Pam Meerdink.

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4 comments:

  • posted at 7:34 pm on Sun, Feb 17, 2008.

    Posts:

    I don't know, T&C. Maybe we should still go in for a shot.

     
  • posted at 7:34 pm on Sun, Feb 17, 2008.

    Posts:

    Finally! A blog without "real acts" vomit all over it. But will it last?

     
  • posted at 2:23 pm on Sat, Feb 16, 2008.

    Posts:

    yucky sick. still yucky, gonna be yucky for a while.

     
  • posted at 11:49 am on Sat, Feb 16, 2008.

    Posts:

    Lets See! $25.00 flu shot at safeway on Kettleman Lane with a 40% chance of prevention multiply by 1,000 people equals $25,000.00! The down side is that 600 out of that 1,000 people will still get the flu!

     

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