Monday, April 6, 2020
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Increased Influenza Prevalence in Southern California

By: Alessandra Eiman Arif

328 flu-related deaths were recorded in the state of California this season, a massive increase from the 52 fatalities reported this time last year.

The percentage of patients with flu symptoms who visited medical clinics increased from 4.7% to 5%, almost hitting the peak reached at the height of the 2017-2018 flu season, the most severe season in the last decade. In that season, around 10% of visits to the Emergency Room were flu-related, and around 61,000 people died according to the Center of Disease and Prevention (CDC). 

Influenza B viruses have dominated this flu season. According to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), patient visits for influenza-like illnesses were above expected levels this year. 

However, the “two chief indicators of severity—hospitalization and deaths—are not yet elevated,” lead of CDC’s Domestic Influenza Surveillance team Lynnette Brammer said in an interview with the New York Times

This year’s flu vaccination may not be effective against the widespread virus strain that has swept across the U.S. This season’s flu shot does not appear to be a good match for the Influenza B strain. Despite the vaccine’s shortcomings, people who obtain the shot still fare better against the flu than those who do not. 

It is vital to take preventative measures against the flu. The CDPH recommends that the populace “wash hands often, cover coughs and sneezes and stay home when sick.” 

Monitoring the body’s physical state is crucial. Common symptoms of the influenza virus include aching muscles, chills and sweats, headaches, dry and persistent coughing, fatigue and weakness, nasal congestion, sore throat and a fever over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. 

For those seeking vaccinations, most flu shots are covered by health insurers. According to the Orange County Register, people without health insurance can also get a free flu shot at the county-run Family Health Clinic on Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

The UCI Student Health Center reported a three-fold increase in the number of Influenza A and B cases in comparison to the 2018-2019 season. For UCI students, the UCI Student Health Center is offering Walk-In Flu clinics every Tuesday 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. from January through February. SHIP insurance fully covers the vaccine, and the cost is $25 for non-SHIP students.

For more information, please visit https://www.ochealthinfo.com/phs/about/family/flu.