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Early flu season expected to peak in California in coming weeks

January 14, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
While some states are experiencing overwhelmed emergency rooms and vaccine shortages this flu season, here in California we're still bracing for the worst. Currently 47 states are reporting record outbreaks. But it hasn't hit California hard yet. Influenza struck early this season, spiking in December, while it usually peaks in February.

Meantime, pharmacies, doctors' offices and clinics are working to meet the growing demand for flu vaccine.

"Parents are really concerned that they're seeing about the epidemic on the news with the recent outbreaks of flu," said Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Nurse Practitioner Antoinette Barrett.

Cedar-Sinai Medical Center's mobile health clinic was at the 109th Street Elementary School Monday giving out free flu shots. Nurses at the clinic, called the Cedars Coach for Kids, say because parents have been seeing news of the flu epidemic there is a high demand for vaccinations.

State health officials predict the flu to peak in California in the coming weeks. Infectious disease experts say ER visits and hospital admissions continue rise. But people still have time before the next big wave hits.

"We are going to likely see flu activity for weeks to come, so it's absolutely not too late, and very important to get the message out to get the flu vaccine," said Dr. Rekha Murthy, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Tests on the flu confirm that the H3N2 appears to be the dominant strain and the one causing the most severe symptoms. While everybody over the age of six months is encouraged to get vaccinated, Dr. Murthy says the very young, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses are most likely to suffer flu complications.

"And another group that has become a priority are pregnant women," said Murthy.

But even if you don't fall into any of the high-risk categories, Dr. Murthy says that with the worst just around the corner, no one should let their guard down.

"Even though there are more complications of death, et cetera, in the elderly and the very young and those with underlying conditions, it can happen in healthy individuals as well," said Murthy.

Dr. Murthy reiterates that you can't get the flu from the flu shot. You may experience some flu-like symptoms like achiness or fatigue, but that could mean you were already incubating a viral illness.

In any case, getting the vaccine will lessen the severity of symptoms if you do get the flu.


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