Health officials push flu shot

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Health officials push flu shotCalifornia Department of Public Health issued a public release last week announcing widespread influenza activity throughout the state and urging people to get their flu shots.

“I saw this as an opportunity to educate the public about influenza activity and to encourage those who have not yet been vaccinated to do so,” said Leslie O’Neill, infection preventionist at Ridgecrest Regional Hospital.

The CDPH said that since Sept. 29 the state has seen 16 deaths attributed to the flu. Two additional deaths reported were children.

“In addition, we have had patients hospitalized locally for complications of flu,” said O’Neill.

CDPH further reports that influenza activity monitored by the department indicates that flu season started earlier than usual this year.

“Getting vaccinated is the best defense against the flu,” said a state official. “It takes a couple of weeks after vaccination for the body to build immunity, so don’t delay getting a shot.”

Other recommendations beyond getting immunized include:

• Staying away from people who are sick and staying home when you or your child are sick

• Covering coughs or sneezes with your sleeve or disposable tissue

• Washing hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer

• Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth

CDPH recommends the flu shot for everyone six months of age and older. The most vulnerable populations include pregnant women, adults 65 and older and individuals with chronic conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and asthma.

Other groups at high risk for complications include children five years old and younger and those with long-term health conditions.

“It is important that parents speak with their doctors as soon as possible if their child develops flu symptoms, particularly children with a higher risk for flu complications,” said CDPH Director Dr. Sonia Angell.

“The flu isn’t merely a winter cold — it is a serious and very contagious virus that can be deadly. The flu is preventable, but a vaccination is needed every year to maintain the greatest protection.”

Angell noted that the state is also seeing an outbreak of acute lung disease associated with vaping. The early symptoms can be similar to those associated with influenza or other respiratory conditions.

“If you vape or use e-cigarettes, it’s particularly important that you get your flu shot this year. If you visit your healthcare provider for symptoms you think might be influenza, be sure to tell your provider about your use of e-cigarettes or vaping.”

O’Neill noted that flu shots are available at most pharmacies in Ridgecrest — on demand and typically free of charge.

“Most primary-care physicians also offer shots,” she said.

For more information about local public health offerings, residents can contact the Kern County Health Department at 661-321-3000.

For more information about the flu, visit CDPH’s website.

For the flu vaccine location nearest you, visit www.flu.gov.

Story First Published: 2019-12-13