Monday, January 12, 2009

Flu Hits Sacramento

An 8-year-old tested positive for flu Wednesday at UC Davis Medical Group in Sacramento – the clinic's first confirmed pediatric case this season.

It was also a signal that flu season is under way.

Health workers say the best advice is to get vaccinated.

The Northern California Partnership for Influenza Prevention was launched in 2004 as a public and private effort to get more people – including children – vaccinated against flu.

Sacramento County Public Health Officer Dr. Glennah Trochet said Wednesday the partnership will convene next week to assess the effort, but early indications show a slight drop in deaths and pneumonia cases.

Lending their expertise for a Q&A about flu season were Dr. Gilbert Chavez of the state Department of Public Health's Center for Infectious Diseases; Trochet; Joann Peters, practice manager of UC Davis Medical Group; and Tom Nelson, a pharmacist at Pucci's Leader Pharmacy in midtown Sacramento.

How do I know I have influenza?
Flu is a respiratory disease, characterized by fever, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, and in children, sometimes diarrhea and vomiting. The same symptoms could be other viral illnesses, such as a cold, but the flu could hang on for up to two weeks.

How is flu season shaping up?
At least some local emergency rooms and clinics are reporting normal or light flu traffic, and statewide, flu outbreaks remain sporadic. But the peak is weeks away.

Should I still get a flu shot?
Absolutely. Flu season can linger through Easter. Afraid of shots? There's a nasal spray that is commonly administered to children, but anyone can get it. You can locate your nearest Passport Health Location here.

Why should children get flu shots?
A fairly new recommendation, vaccinating children keeps them from spreading it around to those who are more vulnerable.

How does the weather affect me, or does it?
The weather doesn't cause viral illnesses. Viruses do. The co-worker hacking away at the desk next to you is more of a threat than a snowstorm. During colder weather, and particularly at large holiday gatherings, people share close quarters, which could mean we are more contagious.

What's the best I can do?
Older people, infants and those with compromised health conditions, such as diabetes, face the greatest risk and should seek medical care and could be prescribed antivirals such as Tamiflu treatment. But for others, don't expect your doctor to give you antibiotics, which aren't effective, or antivirals, which aren't practical for healthier sufferers. Instead, rely on over-the-counter remedies for symptoms. As pharmacist Nelson says, "You can take everything in a pharmacy and get over it in a week, or take nothing and get over it in seven days."


Here are some tips for riding out flu season:

• Cut back on alcohol and smoking, and get plenty of bed rest.

• Stay home and away from others.

• When you sneeze or cough, cover your mouth with a tissue or the inside of your elbow rather than your hand.

• For fever accompanying flu, those 21 or younger should take an alternative to aspirin. Aspirin combined with fever has been linked to Reye's syndrome in children and teens.

• Drink plenty of water, especially young children, who can easily dehydrate.

Thank you to M.S. Enkoji of the Sacramento Bee for this great information.

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