Although the state of California is experiencing widespread influenza activity that is more severe than last year, in Kings County there is a “moderate amount” of flu illness in the county.
“The [flu] activity [locally] is typical for this time of year,” said Kathy Palusko, director of infection prevention at Adventist Health / Central Valley Network.
She said that so far, the number of patients being treated is “right in line” in what the hospital would expect of medical services needed for the flu.
Across the state, there have been 14 influenza-associated deaths including the death of a child in Riverside County.
“This is a tragic reminder that the flu is a serious illness for people of all ages and kills thousands of Americans each year,” said State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith.
Palusko said there have been a few patients treated in intensive care at the hospital because of the flu, but no deaths locally.
Influenza is more active in cold months and can be carried by air (coughing) and by touch. With people inside in close proximity during the holidays and winter months, influenza can spread.
Palusko and Smith both say it is not too late to get a flu vaccine. This year’s strain is the A/Hong Kong (H3N2)-like virus and it closely matches the vaccine meaning it will provide protection against the flu. It takes about two weeks after the vaccination for antibodies that protect against the flu to work.
“If you haven’t been immunized yet this season, getting flu shots for you and your family now can still help protect you this winter,” Smith said.
“The most important prevention is to get a flu vaccine,” Palusko said.
The flu season typically runs through March and it is not known if Kings County has hit its peak of flu illnesses.
“There is still a moderate level of activity reasonable for this time of year,” Palusko said.
The state public health agency recommends that anyone 6 months of age and older, including pregnant women, get a vaccination.
Flu activity typically peaks between December and March, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The flu comes on suddenly with symptoms including headaches, body aches, fever or chills, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, cough and feeling fatigued. Not everyone with the flu will have a fever, according to the CDC.