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LA County has first flu case, reminds on vaccine

LOS ANGELES - The Director of Public Health and Health Officer of Los Angeles County is urging residents to get a flu shot or the FluMist nasal spray vaccine. This developed even as a 55 year old woman was identified by the county Department of Public Health Laboratory to have the first culture confirmed case of influenza this flu season.The woman was diagnosed as having influenza type A (H1), which is one of the strains covered by the flu vaccine.

"It is not unusual to confirm flu cases at this time of year. For the past several years, influenza peaks in Los Angeles County have occurred after January first," said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH. Influenza accounts for up to 200,000 hospitalizations, and between 20,000 and 40,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.

Getting the flu vaccine is the most effective way to prevent the flu and its complications, which include pneumonia, it was said. Symptoms of flu include fever, cough, headache, and muscle ache within the first three to five days of illness.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention stress the importance of flu vaccine for the following:
  • Adults 50 years of age and older,
  • Individuals with chronic conditions such as diabetes or asthma that put them at risk for serious complications,
  • Healthcare workers,
  • Pregnant women,
  • Caretakers of those at greatest risk for complication, and
  • All children over 6 months of age.

Meanwhile, Alvin Nelson El Amin, MD, MPH, Medical Director for Public Health's Immunization Program, said that while flu is extremely contagious, "everyone can help prevent its spread by covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, washing your hands frequently with soap and water, and staying home if you are sick."

Residents are encouraged to first contact their regular doctor for recommended vaccinations. Those who do not have a regular doctor or insurance coverage for vaccines may be eligible for reduced-cost or no-cost vaccines. Free flu vaccines are readily available in LA County, and the traditional shot, FluMist nasal spray vaccine, and thimerosal-free (preservative-free) vaccine continues to be offered through Public Health clinics.

To find the nearest Public Health clinic, contact LA County's information line at 2-1-1 from any land line or cell phone. You may also visit the Public Health Immunization Program's website at http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/ip or www.findaflushot.com for additional information.

PHOTO: Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding

Dionesio C. Grava - Part-time community journalist based in Los Angeles and editorial writer at Forum Asia.

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