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By Henrietta J. Burroughs                Follow East Palo Alto Today on
East Palo Alto Today                                       Facebook    Twitter         Blog    
January 28, 2014                           
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 U.S. map showing flu activity in January 2014 

U.S. map showing flu activity in January 2014,
courtesy of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Health officials remind everyone that it’s not too late to get a flu shot.

In the latest flu activity update issued this week, the San Mateo County Health System reported that the county has four confirmed flu-related deaths. All of the deceased were under the age of 65.

Influenzarelated deaths increased by 50 to a total of 95 confirmed deaths throughout California. Three of these are pediatric deaths. The department stated that there are an additional 51 deaths under investigation, which are not yet confirmed.

The state statistics reflect the latest influenza report released on January 24, by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), said, “Flu activity continues to increase statewide, including reports of hospitalizations, severe disease and the number of deaths,” Dr. Chapman said, “We are clearly in the midst of what appears to be an earlier peaking, severe flu season, and I encourage everyone who has not yet gotten a flu vaccination to do so. The influenza vaccine remains the most effective way to protect yourself from the flu.”

According to the CDPH, an additional 50 deaths are under investigation as flu related.

The elderly, pregnant women, infants, or those with other health conditions are at the highest risk for catching the flu. However, it has been noted that the current strain of the flu has also caused deaths among young, healthy people.

Thus far San Mateo County has 3 confirmed flu-related deaths under the age of 65. One of these deaths was that of an infant. As of January 16, the county has had 8 flu-related ICU hospitalizations.

The American Red Cross recommends five steps that everyone should take to minimize his or her chances of catching the flu, in addition to getting a yearly flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older.

Five steps people can take to help prevent the spread of the flu virus:

1. Stay home if sick.
2. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
3. Cover the nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing, and throw the tissue away after use. If that’s not possible, cough or sneeze into the elbow, not the hands. People with the flu can spread it to others about six feet away through coughs and sneezes.
4. Wash hands often, especially after coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand-rub.
5. Avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth.

“If someone has the flu they should avoid contact with others as much as possible,” said Mark Cloutier, American Red Cross Regional CEO. “Everyone should also disinfect surfaces used commonly such as door knobs, switches, phones, computers and remote controls.”

DO I HAVE THE FLU? The common signs of influenza are high fever, severe body aches, headache, being extremely tired, sore throat, cough, runny or stuffy nose, and vomiting and/or diarrhea (more common in children).

If someone thinks they have the flu, their health-care provider should be consulted. Someone should seek medical care immediately if they develop any of the following symptoms:
• Fast breathing, trouble breathing or bluish skin color.
• Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen (adults).
• Confusion or sudden dizziness.
• Not drinking enough fluids, not being able to eat, or severe or persistent vomiting.
• Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough.
• Children - not waking up, being so irritable that the child does not want to be held or not interacting. Fever with a rash. No tears when crying or significantly fewer wet diapers than normal.

For more information on influenza and other respiratory disease reports visit: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/Pages/NR14-010.aspx

To see more ideas on how to stop the spread of the flu go to: www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/flu also http://www.cdc.gov/flu/

The above article updates the article titled, How to protect yourself against the flu, which appeared in the December 20, 2014 - January 25, 2014 edition of East Palo Alto Today. See the issue at www.epatoday.org/current.html. Reach the author of this article, Henrietta J. Burroughs, at epatoday@epatoday.org.