Placer County flu season deadly

Early season fatality one of at least 42 in state
By: Carol Feineman, Editor
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Last Friday, state officials said 42 Californians under age 65 have died of influenza this flu season. One of the 42 fatalities in December was from Placer County, according to a county health official.

By comparison, at this time last flu season, nine Californians under the age of 65 died from the flu, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Flu activity this season is widespread throughout the state and at levels usually seen at the peak of the influenza season, the California Department of Public Health announced last week. 

Since only influenza deaths in persons under the age of 65 years old are reported to the state public health department, the total number of deaths from influenza is actually higher.

The strain currently worrying health officials is influenza A (H3N2) virus.

Unfortunately, it is the most common flu strain circulating this year, said Dr. James Watt, the California Department of Public Health’s chief of the Division of Communicable Disease Control, last week in a press conference.

Influenza A (H3N2) virus is also “associated with more deaths and hospitalizations in persons 65 and older and young children,” Watt said.

This year’s flu season started a month earlier in the beginning of November, according to state officials.

And Placer County Health Officer Dr. Robert Oldham had the same sentiments. He told The Loomis News that the flu season hit Placer County earlier than usual.

Reports from medical facilities in early January are indicating that the levels of patients reporting flu symptoms is reaching levels normally seen during late January, when flu season peaks in Placer County, according to Oldham.

“We’re hopeful that it’s an early season and not a bad season,” Oldham said. “It seems like there’s plenty out there and we have it plenty early.”

This year’s flu season could last through May, according to the California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How to fight the flu

Influenza symptoms are typically any illness with a fever above 100 degrees, a cough and a sore throat.

“In general, if you have cold or flu symptoms that came on quickly or won’t go away, that are more severe than a normal cold, have a high fever, headache, muscle aches, soreness — when in doubt, see your doctor,” Oldham said.

A diagnosis can get tricky, particularly for people at a stage where they don’t think they need to visit a doctor, Oldham said.

“It’s hard to tell by the descriptions, so further medical testing will help,” Oldham said. “But even the experts can have a hard time determining between a cold and the flu.”

A good preventive is a flu shot and Oldham recommends finding a clinic if someone has yet to get the flu vaccine for this season.

The standard advice during the cough and cold season remains in place: wash hands frequently; avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth; and avoid close contact with people who are sick.

In addition, the California Department of Public Health recommends that residents, to stop the spread of flu and other respiratory illnesses:

* stay home while sick and limit contact with others

* cover your cough or sneeze with your sleeve or disposable tissue.

Gus Thomson co-wrote this article.