Santa Clarita health officials are seeing a statewide trend bear out in local emergency rooms, a Henry Mayo doctor told KHTS AM-1220 on Friday.
“The flu season has been kind of interesting,” said Dr. Darren Privett of the Emergency Room Department for Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital in Valencia.
“A couple of years ago, we had a pretty severe outbreak of N1H1, and last year, we had a pretty mild year,” he said, noting that hospital officials expected a seasonal uptick, but instead saw a higher than average volume.
“This past two or three weeks, we’ve had a huge surge (of the flu) coming through the emergency room,” he said.
Typically, October and November are when the flu season gets under way, but the numbers remained lower than usual until December hit, he said.
Due to rapid testing, the hospital is able to track the higher numbers, he said.
Privett also addressed questions about when a person is most contagious.
“That can be a scary thing,” Privett said, “because you actually can be contagious 24 hours before you develop symptoms.”
Once you become symptomatic, i.e. dry cough, sore throat, fever, etc., the time you are contagious can depend on a number of factors, Privett said.
“Some sources say two days, some say up to five to seven days, there’s some variability there,” he said. “I would say, in general, you can be contagious up to seven days.”
There are several advised courses of action that can help fight the flu and lessen its effects, he said.
“There is an antiviral (treatment) we do recommend — if we can initiate treatment in the first couple hours, usually the symptoms can last up to 10-14 days, and with treatment you can shorten the duration of your symptoms to seven to 10 days,” he said.
“But the key is if you do have flu-like symptoms to stay home, because there is a high level of contagiousness,” he said. “You want to make sure that you use the universal precautions.”
People who are ill should take actions to stop the spread of germs such as:
* While sick, limit contact with others
* Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing
* Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based rub
* Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
Influenza activity in California is beginning to show a steady increase and is now considered to be widespread, according to California Department of Public Health indicators.
“Currently, there are more hospitalizations at this point than expected, based on historical trends,” the state agency reported Friday.
For the most recent reporting period, there have been seven confirmed influenza deaths in persons under 65 years of age reported to CDPH.
Nearly 30 more deaths are under investigation.
“The H1N1 strain appears to be the predominant strain so far this flu season and is one that is contained in the current flu vaccine,” according to a CDPH statement.
Those at highest risk – the elderly, pregnant women, infants, or those with other health conditions – who show flu symptoms should contact their physician immediately in order to get the most effective treatment. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue.
Visit a flu vaccine location near you to get immunized. Some local health departments may also offer free or low-cost immunizations.
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