Flu peaks early, strong in Nevada County
An early and powerful flu season in Truckee has health officials wondering if the worst is over.
“I think we’re probably over the hump,” said Joyce Giampaoli, nurse’s aide at Glenshire Elementary School. “I think it was bad before Thanksgiving. It was just raging then.”
The influenza season peaked earlier and stronger this year in Nevada County than in years past, said Dr. Kenneth Cutler, health officer for the Nevada County Community Health Department. Moreover, the early season – along with state budget cuts and media exposure about the virus’ early insurgence – dwindled the health department’s flu vaccination supply, he said.
“Now there’s a priority system because demand had gone up,” Cutler said.
This year, California’s community health departments received fewer doses from the state due to budget cuts. Nevada County had to secure money for roughly 300 of the more than 3,000 vaccinations it will administer until the flu season’s end in March, Cutler said.
The county’s priority system allows only those in the high-risk category to receive the vaccination. Those in the high-risk category include adults older than 50, and anyone with chronic illness. Others include residents of nursing homes or other long-term care facilities, health care workers in contact with patients, children 6 to 18 months old who receive long-term Aspirin therapy, and women in the second or third trimester of pregnancy.
For those who don’t fall into the high-risk category, family physicians and other health care providers also have flu vaccines available in various forms.
Despite the national attention influenza has received this season, Tahoe Forest Hospital has only seen a slight increase in its percentage of flu patients this year, said hospital spokeswoman Teri Smith.
Of all the patients the hospital’s emergency room has seen in the last five weeks, only 5 percent actually had the flu. More importantly, it is only a 1 percent increase, compared to last year’s numbers for the same time period.
Cutler said he does not know any deaths in Nevada County directly related to the flu.
Although those in the high-risk category should still seek the vaccine, Cutler said it does not protect against all strains of the flu, so people should practice good common sense to they don’t contract or spread the virus.
“A lot of health care offices have signs up, asking people to cover their cough,” he said.
To prevent spread of the virus, people should avoid coughing and sneezing into the air and wash their hands often.
For Giampaoli, the Glenshire Elementary nurse’s assistant, teaching children – and parents – good prevention has been almost a full-time job.
“I spend my days telling the kids to wash their hands and disinfect surfaces,” she said.
She also tells the students to take their vitamins – especially vitamin C – and to rest and eat properly.
Giampaoli added that she thinks parents can do more to prevent the spread the flu.
“There’s a lot of parents who work,” she said. “And what’s been unusual is we’ll take their temperature, they’ll have a fever, and we’ll send them home. Then, the parents will send them right back to school … Parents need to realize that when their kids are sick, they need to keep their kids at home.”
For more information on flu symptoms, prevention and the spread of the virus, check out http://www.cdc.gov/flu/keyfacts.htm.
Flu clinic held today
The Nevada County Community Health Department’s flu vaccine supply is low, so today might be the last chance for people in the high-risk category to receive a shot this season.
The county health department, in conjunction with Tahoe Forest Hospital, will hold a clinic at the Community Wellness Resource Center today from 1-3 p.m., on a first-come, first-served basis, until supplies last. The center is located on the corner of Donner Pass Road and Pine Avenue.
Those in the high-risk category include people older than 50, those with a chronic illness, health care workers who deal with patients, pregnant women in their second or third trimester, and people in long-term care facilities.
The cost for the shot is $10.
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The county’s total coronavirus case count reached 3,234 on Wednesday, an increase of 28 from the day before.