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Health officer expects ‘active’ flu season

Stanislaus County is easing its response to the coronavirus pandemic, while at the same time, bracing for a harsh flu season, Dr. Julie Vaishampayan told the Board of Supervisors on Sept. 13.

Vaishampayan, the county’s public health officer, told the board that hospitals will no longer conduct bed polling — basically, a head count of COVID patients.

“Many in the hospitals are there with COVID and not for COVID,” Vaishampayan told the board. “I think we’ve seen through this last surge that we’re not seeing a huge impact on our hospitals.”

Vaishampayan also updated the board on the six COVID-centered goals established for the county last march — support operational integrity of the medical system within the county; maximize vaccinations of high-risk populations; continue to assist and support school districts and the education community; maximize community treatment services and keep people healthy to avoid unnecessary hospitalization; ensure availability of testing resources and appropriate facemasks; and foster timely education and communication.

“The prevalence of the virus has dropped,” said District 2 County Supervisor Vito Chiesa. “We have made significant progress in how manage COVID in our communities.”

While Stanislaus County is pulling in the reigns on its COVID response as the state is expected to end its emergency response later this year, Vashaimpayan said she expects the upcoming flu season to be a rough one.

“We are expecting an active flu season,” she said. “One of the places we look for flu is Australia on the southern hemisphere because they’re just completing their winter now. They had an extremely active flu season.”

Vashaimpayan said this season’s flu vaccine contains four strains and that those 65 and older should receive a high dose or one that is adjuvanted to improve the immune response. 

Vashaimpayan also updated the board on the county’s monkeypox cases.

A relative of smallpox, which was eradicated from the planet in 1980, monkeypox primarily affects men who have sex with other men. 

“It is transmitted by close contact, skin-on-skin contact,” said Vashaimpayan. “It does not seem to be transmitted at all through the air.”

Fifteen people in Stanislaus County have been infected with monkeypox. There is treatment — Tecovirimat (TPOXX) — and there is a vaccine — Jynneos. Thus far, 189 vaccinations have been conducted and the county has 352 vials off the vaccine, which contain five doses per vial.