While the flu has hit epidemic proportions in the U.S., according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) it has yet to reach its peak, especially in the West Coast. California generally is on the tail end of the flu timeline, and cases are on the rise and will worsen well into February.
“It’s not quite as widespread as the rest of the country, but we are seeing the flu,” said Dr. Karen Haught, a physician with the Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency.
Vaccinations remain the first line of defense for combating the flu, Haught said. And, it is still a good idea to be vaccinated, if not already, especially for children and those older than 50.
“Vaccinations should be given to all children six months of age and older,” she said. “And, it is best for infants to have protection from those around them being vaccinated.”
The most prevalent strain of flu this season is the H3N2, which is responsible for the deaths of 36 children in various states including California, according to the CDC. Current vaccines are not totally formulated to recent changes in that strain, but will definitely fight off other strains and reduce the symptoms of H3N2, a CDC source stated on its website.
Usually there are up to four different strains of flu that circulate any given year, Haught said. The current vaccination still provides protection for the other three strains and helps protect for a milder case of H3N2, she said.
There is an increase in antivirals, such as Tamiflu, being prescribed. It is important that this is started as soon as the flu is detected.
“If started early in the illness, it can shorten the length of the illness and minimize the overall severity,” Haught said.
This is even more important for those who have underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, lung issues or diabetes, she added.
A plus for antivirals is that there is not the concern for overuse, as there is for antibiotics, the CDC source stated. If taken this year, it can again be prescribed and should help again next year.
Flu symptoms include:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
Not everyone has the same symptoms, and it is important to recognize when the symptoms are not a cold, but the flu.
Prevention for contracting the flu beyond vaccination includes avoiding contact with those who may have the flu, frequent hand washing, keeping rested and eating healthy.
If diagnosed with the flu, that individual should stay home whenever possible, and cover their mouth when coughing or sneezing.
“If it starts, just stay home,” Haught said.
Vaccinations are available through TCHHS offices, Kings County Health & Welfare offices, private medical care providers and pharmacies. Many providers accept Medicare, MediCal and private insurance. For more information call the TCHHS at 624-8000; KCHW at 584-1401; or your private medical care provider.