Flu cases showing up across country

December numbers comparable to 2012 stats, Health officials say
By: Amy Lobenberg, Journal Staff Writer
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As the new year approaches, so does the peak of influenza season and, according to, Placer County experiencing a “moderate” outbreak.

Flu season can begin as early as October and usually peaks in January or February, according to Individuals most at risk are seniors age 65 and older; children, especially those younger than 2 years old; and people with chronic health conditions.

Complications from the flu include:

— Bacterial pneumonia

— Ear or sinus infections

— Dehydration

—Worsening of chronic health conditions

Each year, between 5 and 20 percent of U.S. residents get the flu, and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized for flu-related complications.

In Auburn, physician’s assistant Jeffrey Topo of Sierra Doctors Medical Group, said that he has seen about four total cases of influenza since the beginning of December.

“Once the flu shot comes out, we try to get people to get it as long as they qualify,” Topo said. “Once people get sick, the main complaints are fever, cough, sore throat, bad body aches, runny nose and congestion. The older you get, the more it can affect you in a negative manner. Within the first few days, you should see your doctor to receive treatment. There is an antiviral out that is recommended as long as you take it within the first few days. It’s called Tamiflu.”

Topo also said that he has seen neither an increase nor decrease in the number of flu patients this year compared to last year, but he said getting the flu shot is a good idea.

“So far it’s been pretty much the same,” Topo said. “I do think it’s good (to get vaccinated), just so you don’t have to deal with it. Theoretically it protects you. … You are probably going to have a milder case of the flu, and your symptoms could be less severe.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone over the age of six months receive flu vaccinations annually, with some rare exceptions. Vaccines are available in Auburn at Target, CVS, Rite Aid and Safeway, among other locations. Individuals can also receive flu shots through their health insurance, doctor’s office and at local clinics.

At Auburn Ravine Terrace senior retirement community, some independent-living residents took a bus to get flu shots at the Senior Health Fair at the Gold Country Fairgrounds in October.

According to receptionist Leah Hewling, the bus takes nine seniors at a time to the fairgrounds so that they can receive their vaccinations.

“The bus trips are first-come, first-serve. They leave early in the morning and everyone is taken care of in one day. They (the senior residents) can determine if they want the shot.”

Wesley Nicks of the Placer County Public Health Department said that more information about influenza statistics and rates in Placer County will become available next week.

“Right now we are seeing that it (the flu rate) is about the same as last year,” Nicks said. “It may change … but around Placer, we have not seen a change yet. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said H1N1 seems to be the stronger strain this year … but it is included in the vaccine. That happens every year where one strain happens to be more prominent than others. We may send a health alert out on Monday and are waiting for lab confirmation.”