Dr. Karen Furst, San Joaquin County public health officer, said on Tuesday, Jan. 22, that the number of reported cases is already on the rise in the county and state.
“It starts at the end of December and starts to climb usually through January and peaks in February, leveling off at March,” she said. “It will rise before it turns around and goes back down again. We’re on the upslope right now.”
One barometer used by county officials to determine if the flu is spreading is the number of people reportedly getting the virus who are younger than 65, Furst said.
No deaths had been reported in the county as of Tuesday. There was one person younger than 65 who was hospitalized that day in intensive care with the flu virus in northern San Joaquin County.
There were three deaths reported during the 2010-11 flu season and two in the 2011-12 season, according to county statistics.
To combat the virus, health officials recommend that residents get vaccinated with a flu shot, which should keep the disease at bay.
It takes two weeks for full immunity to take effect.
“The vast majority (of flu strains) is matching the vaccine,” Furst said. “That is very good, and that means people can get vaccinated and help them get protected from the viruses circulating right now.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone 6 months of age and older be immunized. Vaccines are available through primary physicians, most clinics and pharmacies across the city and county.
In Tracy, as of Tuesday, the flu vaccine was available at several locations, including Walgreens at 1830 W. 11th St. and 2810 S. Tracy Blvd.; Raley’s pharmacy at 2550 S. Tracy Blvd.; and Safeway pharmacy at 1801 W. 11th St.
According to officials at a few of the local pharmacies, more people are seeking out the flu shot and demand is continuing to grow.
“It’s been pretty busy, 10 to 15 (customers) per day,” said Safeway pharmacy technician Minnie Mercier.
The pharmacy manager at Raley’s supermarket, Gagan Gill, said people get flu shots when it is publicized more in the media.
“People fear their kids are getting sick, and sometimes we have five to six (people) in a row every day for the last two to three weeks,” Gill said.
According to county health officials, anyone with the flu can spread the virus to others up to six feet away when they cough and sneeze. People are urged to always cough or sneeze into a tissue or the crook of their arm, as well as to wash hands with soap and water after coughing or sneezing.
Since the flu germ can live on both dry and wet surfaces, officials also recommend keeping surfaces clean with a disinfectant.
If someone is experiencing flu-like symptoms — such as fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue — they should avoid close contact with others and stay home from work or school until at least 24 hours after the fever has dissipated.
For more information about seasonal influenza and the benefits of vaccinations, visit the San Joaquin County Public Health Services website at www.sjcphs.org.
• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at 830-4225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.