SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — State health officials said flu levels across the state are reaching levels typically seen later in the season, with multiple flu-related deaths reported, and reminded the public that now is the time to get a flu shot.
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) reported that there have been 16 influenza-related deaths across the state, including two children, since Sept. 29, according to department spokesman Corey Egal.
Egal said getting vaccinated is the best defense against the flu.
He added that it takes a couple of weeks after vaccination for the body to build immunity, so don’t delay getting a shot.
“Flu activity is starting earlier than usual in California this season,” said Dr. Sonia Angell, State Public Health Officer and CDPH Director. “The flu shot protects you and those around you by making it less likely you’ll get sick if you’re exposed to the virus, and if you do get ill, you’ll tend to have fewer days of symptoms and they’ll be less severe.”
Besides getting immunized, you can also take some other simple steps:
- Stay away from people who are sick and stay home when you or your child are sick.
- Cover coughs or sneezes with your sleeve or disposable tissue.
- Wash hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
CDPH recommends the annual flu vaccination for everyone six months of age and older, Egal said. While anyone can get the flu, pregnant women, adults 65 years of age and older, and people with chronic conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and asthma are particularly at risk for flu-related complications.
Children 5 years old and younger, especially those under 2, and all children with long-term health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and disorders of the brain or nervous system are at risk of serious complications if they get the flu. It is important that parents speak with their doctor as soon as possible if their child develops flu symptoms, particularly children with a higher risk for flu complications. Parents of any child with flu symptoms should make sure their child is well-hydrated and gets plenty of rest.
“The flu isn’t merely a winter cold: it is a serious, and very contagious virus that can be deadly,” Angell said. “The flu is preventable, but vaccination is needed every year to maintain the greatest protection.”
An outbreak of acute lung disease associated with vaping is ongoing across the country and the early symptoms can be similar to those associated with influenza or other respiratory conditions, Egal said. If you vape or use e-cigarettes, it’s particularly important that you get your flu shot this year.
If you visit your health care provider for symptoms you think might be influenza, be sure to tell your provider about your use of e-cigarettes or vaping.