The flu season is in full swing across the country and with it health officials are seeing a resurgence of the H1N1 virus that reached pandemic levels in 2009.
The Stanislaus County Health Services Agency is reporting that flu activity in the county is on the rise and hospitals and clinics are seeing increased cases of people critically ill with the flu, including previously healthy young adults.
The California Depart of Public Health reports that H1N1 appears to be the predominant strain circulating so far in California, and this is being seen in Stanislaus County as well. The H1N1 virus tends to cause more illnesses in children and young adults than it does in older individuals, though all age groups are susceptible.
The symptoms of H1N1, also called swine flu, are similar to the symptoms of other influenza viruses and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have also reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with H1N1.
The 2009 pandemic saw millions of people sickened by the virus worldwide and caused an estimated 150,000 deaths.
Stanislaus County has recorded a number of individuals hospitalized with the H1N1 virus and has recorded two flu-related deaths so far this season. The deaths were of a 61-year-old and a 78-year-old and in at least one case there was a confirmation of the H1N1 virus, said Trudi Prevette, a registered nurse with the county health agency.
Unlike the 2009 pandemic, a vaccine for the H1N1 virus has been available since the flu season began. The vaccine currently available protects against several strains of influenza, including the H1N1 virus.
"The flu vaccine is an important and safe way to protect yourself and your loved ones against influenza" said Dr. John Walker, Stanislaus County Public Health Officer; "unlike other vaccine preventable diseases, a flu shot is needed every year to ensure protection."
People can still receive the flu vaccine to be protected this year. Typically, the flu season peaks in February and March in Stanislaus County and the flu vaccine only takes two weeks to become fully effective. It is particularly important for pregnant women and other people at higher risk for severe influenza to be vaccinated.
People should check with their primary care provider or local pharmacy for vaccine availability. Vaccinations are also offered at the Stanislaus County Public Health Department for $10 per child (6 months through 18 years) and $25 per adult. Flu vaccines are provided to the public during the hours of 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays at the Public Health building located at 820 Scenic Drive in Modesto. No appointments are necessary.
In addition to getting vaccinated, public health officials recommend everyone help prevent the spread of the seasonal flu by:
• Staying home when you are sick.
• Covering your coughs and sneezes with your elbows, sleeves, or with a tissue. Dispose of the tissue after each use. Coughing into hands can spread germs to others.
• Washing your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth, even after washing your hands.