Flu Season Has Arrived; Take Preventive Measures

It's official: flu season has arrived in Humboldt County.

Officials at Humboldt General Hospital confirmed this week that six patients there have tested positive for flu. In Washoe County, more than three dozen people are confirmed with the virus.

"The message for us is that now is the time to act preventively," said HGH Infection Control Nurse Ginger Tanner. "The best precautions are getting a flu shot, being conscientious about hand washing, and if you are ill, limiting your contact with others as much as possible."

Tanner said flu is a serious illness that results in hospitalization for approximately 200,000 people each year; of those, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says an average of 23,000 will die.

That's the bad news. The even worse news is that this year's flu season is ramping up earlier than last year's.

The CDC said last week that the flu is widespread in 29 of the 54 states and territories that it tracks. This time last year, it was widespread in only four.

Eleven children have died so far this year. Pregnant women and the elderly are also especially vulnerable.

Federal health officials warned earlier this month that much of the influenza virus circulating in the United States this year has mutated.

Still, flu experts say that a flu shot is still the best method of protection as it covers many different strains of flu.

Tanner said while local flu activity is currently low, the incidence of cases in Nevada and in the United States usually peaks between December and February, so anyone who has not yet received a flu vaccine should do so now.

The following measures will help prevent local residents from contracting or spreading the disease.

Additionally, the CDC recommends that people not travel while they are ill. People with flu-like symptoms should wait to travel until at least 24 hours after their fever has subsided without the use of fever-lowering medications.

Those who become ill while traveling should postpone traveling home until they are well.

For more information about seasonal flu, visit www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm.