This year’s severe flu season has wreaked havoc across the nation, and it is particularly harmful to children and seniors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that eight more children have died in its last reporting period, the week ending January 26, bringing the national total for this season to 45 children. Nationally, for all ages, 9.4% of the deaths were due to influenza and pneumonia. The CDC notes that it is still not too late to receive the vaccine.
On a brighter note, despite the fact that the infection rate is still of epidemic proportion, the flu season is on the decline. The current rate of 9.4% is still above the epidemic threshold of 7.2%; however, it marks a decline from the previous week, which stood at 9.8%. Geographic Spread of Influenza: California and 41 other states reported widespread geographic influenza activity; 7 states reported regional activity; the District of Columbia and one state reported local activity; Guam reported sporadic influenza activity, and Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands did not report.
The statistics for Southern California are as follows:
- Los Angeles: 35 deaths
- Long Beach: 12 deaths
- Pasadena: 6 deaths
- San Diego: 23 deaths
The CDC notes that it may currently be more difficult to find a vaccination facility than it was earlier in the season. Individuals may need to contact more than one provider (pharmacy, health department, or doctor) to find available vaccine. The CDC has flu vaccine locator on its Web site that can aid people in their search. Manufacturers originally projected they would produce 135 million doses of flu vaccine this season. However, they have increased that estimate to 145 million. In addition to recommending vaccination, the CDC is urging physicians to order more vaccine, as the flu season is still ongoing.
Infected individuals have a responsibility to reduce the risk of infecting others. A common practice in many Asian nations is the wearing of a surgical mask. That practice has not caught on in the US; however, it is a good one because it can prevent you from becoming an “Influenza Mary.” The CDC offers the following recommendations for people who have come down with the flu:
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you or your child gets sick with a respiratory illness, like flu, limit contact with others as much as possible to help prevent spreading illness. Stay home (or keep your child home) for at least 24 hours after fever is gone except to seek medical care or for other necessities. Fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
- If an outbreak of flu or another illness occurs, follow public health advice. This may include information about how to increase distance between people and other measures.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. This will block the spread of droplets from your mouth or nose that could contain germs.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
More information is available on the CDC Web site.