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Flu season is now in full swing

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According to a report released on January 10 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), influenza is now widespread in at least 35 states, including California, marking an uptick from 25 states in the previous week. According to Lyn Finelli, a flu specialist with the CDC, the flu season is definitely on the rise; however, it is likely that it has not peaked. The flu season typically peaks during January and February.

On a positive note, to date, the numbers are not as high as last year, when the flu season started early. The number of individuals seeking medical care for the flu rose to more than 4% of all doctor visits last week—a rate that is almost twice that of the percentage two weeks earlier.

On January 9, North Carolina state health officials reported that the death toll from the seasonal flu outbreak had risen to 21; however, 19 were young and middle-aged adults, most of whom had underlying medical conditions. Only two deaths have been reported in individuals older than age 65. The North Carolina officials noted that flu activity has been widespread in North Carolina since mid-December. On January 10, Washington state health officials reported that 11 flu deaths have occurred in the state this season. Five of the deaths have been in King County, which is the population center of the state. Last season, 54 official flu deaths occurred in the state. Washington Health Department Spokesman Marqise Allen noted that the number is not unusual; however, the department urges everyone over the age of six months to be vaccinated. The swine flu has been the most common strain, and the current vaccine available covers the H1N1 virus.

In Nevada, five deaths have occurred in Washoe County; the Southern Nevada Health District reported that two middle-aged individual and one elderly person have died in Clark County. “These deaths serve as a stark reminder of what a serious illness flu can be and the importance of taking preventive measures,” noted Dr. Joe Iser, chief health officer of the Southern Nevada Health District. According to health officials, it is not too late to get a flu vaccination. Although Flu season generally peaks in January or February, it can continue well into spring. In addition to being vaccinated, they recommend frequent hand-washing and covering your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough to reduce the spread of the virus. Healthy individuals should avoid close contact with someone who is sick, and those who do become infected should stay home to prevent spreading the virus to others.