Washoe Co. flu cases rise as new year begins
Week 1, the first week of the calendar year, is usually the beginning of peak flu season in Washoe County according to reports and statistics. However, local health officials are reminding everyone that there is still time and vaccines available to ward off the nasty flu bug this year.
According to Washoe County District Health Officer Kevin Dick, “It generally takes about two weeks after getting a flu shot for your body to develop immunity. So getting a shot now can still protect you through the most active time for flu in Washoe County, January through February.”
Epidemiologists and biostatisticians at the health district note that in Northern Nevada and Washoe County, most flu cases are seen in January and February, and that the H1N1 strain appears to be the predominant strain circulating so far in the U.S. this flu season.
The H1N1 virus, which emerged in 2009, can cause more severe illness in children and young than is typical. Dick points out that this year’s influenza vaccines protect against at least three strains of influenza including H1N1.
The 2013-14 trivalent influenza vaccine is made from three viruses: A/California (H1N1), A/Victoria (H3N2) and B/Massachusetts. A quadrivalent (four strain) vaccine on the market this year also contains the B/Brisbane virus.
The influenza viruses in the seasonal flu vaccine are selected each year based on surveillance-based forecasts about what viruses are most likely to cause illness in the coming season. The CDC does not recommend one of these vaccines over the other.
Flu shots are readily available throughout the community at local pharmacies, grocery stores, doctor’s offices and at the health district. Costs for flu shots at the health district vary depending upon each individual’s health care coverage or eligibility for state-sponsored vaccine, and both shots and flu mist (for children) are available.
The health district administers immunizations by appointment only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 8 a.m. and noon, and between 1 and 4:30 p.m. Call 775-328-2402 on Tuesday, Thursday or Friday to make an appointment.
Appointments can be made up to a week in advance. The phone line will be open each Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday until all appointment slots for the next week have been filled.
While everyone should get a flu shot every year, it’s especially important that certain people get vaccinated either because they are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for people at high risk for developing flu-related complications. This includes:
• Children aged 6 months- 4 years (59 months);
• People 50 years and older;
• People with chronic pulmonary (including asthma), cardiovascular (except hypertension), renal, hepatic, neurologic, hematologic, or metabolic disorders (including diabetes mellitus);
• People who are immunosuppressed (including immunosuppression caused by medications or by human immunodeficiency virus);
• Women who are or will be pregnant during the influenza season;
• Children aged 6 months to 18 years receiving long-term aspirin therapy and who therefore might be at risk for experiencing Reye’s syndrome after influenza virus infection;
• Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities;
• American Indians/Alaska Natives;
• People who are morbidly obese (body-mass index is 40 or greater);
• Health-care personnel;
• Household contacts and caregivers of children aged younger than 5 years and adults aged 50 years and older, with particular emphasis on vaccinating contacts of children aged younger than 6 months; and
• Household contacts and caregivers of persons with medical conditions that put them at higher risk for severe complications from influenza.
According to the CDC, the number of seasonal flu-related deaths varies from year to year because flu seasons are unpredictable and often fluctuate in length and severity. Therefore, a single estimate cannot be used to summarize influenza-associated deaths.
Instead, a range of estimated deaths is a better way to represent the variability and unpredictability of flu. CDC estimates that from the 1976-1977 season to the 2006-2007 flu season, flu-associated deaths ranged from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.
“Your best protection against the flu is to get a shot,” said Dick. “While other preventive measures like frequent hand-washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying at home when sick can also reduce the risk of transmission, a flu shot is still highly recommended and the most effective method of prevention.”
Provided by the Washoe County Health District. For information, visit http://www.washoecounty.us/health. Information on flu vaccines and costs can be found at http://www.washoecounty.us/health/cchs/flu.html.
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