Tuesday, October 23, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 33

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on January 10th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 45 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 18, Issue 45

Aggressive influenza season causes deaths, strains medical facilities


This season’s aggressive strains of influenza have killed six Santa Barbara County residents in the last two weeks alone. Although the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department said all six victims were older than 65, the two-week count is already a significant increase from last year’s season total of three influenza-related deaths.

And the number of positive influenza tests across the state and nation continues to be much higher than in past years, according to the Public Health Department. Health officials say a premature start to the usual season and the prevalence of more aggressive influenza strains are to blame for this year’s rampant illness.

Santa Barbara County Public Health officials stressed the importance of getting vaccinated for flu season. The flu has claimed six lives in the county within two weeks. Pictured: A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Health Clinic staffer prepares a flu vaccine.

“This is a world trend that it’s a difficult flu season,” said Susan Klein-Rothschild, deputy director of the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.

The difficulty stems from this year’s most predominant strain of flu, H3N2, which the Public Health Department said causes more severe illness, thus leading to more hospitalizations and deaths.

“There is also concern that we are seeing more flu earlier in the season,” Klein-Rothschild said.

Health care providers typically start reporting influenza outbreaks in late January and February, Klein-Rothschild said, but the Public Health Department saw this season’s first cases in December 2017. The chief concern is that rather than ending early, as it started, the flu will continue to spread throughout the coming months, which could prove difficult for the county’s already strained health care facilities.

Cottage Health stated in a press release on Jan. 5 that high volumes of patients with influenza were causing lengthy wait times at its emergency departments in Santa Barbara, Goleta, and Santa Ynez. Cottage Hospital staffers will be treating patients based on illness severity, according to the release, and otherwise healthy and low-risk individuals experiencing flu symptoms are being urged to stay home, stay hydrated, and recover.

Cottage Health and the Public Health Department suggest that those at high-risk for severe influenza related complications—the elderly, very young children, pregnant women, and those with underlying health conditions—contact a primary doctor or clinic at the first sign of flu symptoms. Those experiencing severe flu symptoms should also seek medical attention.

Some antiviral medications can shorten the duration and severity of the flu, according to the release.

Klein-Rothschild also wanted to remind the community that it’s not too late to get vaccinated, which is the most effective way to prevent the flu and limit its severity if contracted. To avoid contracting the flu, Klein-Rothschild said individuals should also frequently wash their hands with soap and avoid touching their eyes, face, nose, and mouth, and avoid unnecessary contact with already sick individuals.

More information on the flu can be found at cdc.gov/flu.

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