LOS ANGELES - The first confirmed influenza death in Los Angeles County for the 2013-2014 flu season has been reported. The decedent was a woman with underlying medical conditions who resided in the San Fernando Valley. The particular strain of influenza was identified as type B.
"The Department of Public Health encourages everyone 6 months of age and older to get their flu vaccination now," said Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer. "We cannot predict how severe or how mild this flu season will be but the earlier you get your seasonal flu vaccine; either through the influenza shot or nasal spray, the sooner you will be protected from the flu. The nasal spray flu vaccine is approved for use in healthy people ages two through 49 who are not pregnant. Practice basic hygiene, too, such as hand washing, to prevent the spread of influenza and other respiratory diseases."
Recent surveillance in Los Angeles County shows that both the A and B influenza strains are circulating sporadically. Because immunity from flu vaccination declines over time and the strain of the flu virus changes from year to year, it is important to get vaccinated annually.
"We are starting to see the start of the flu season, so now is the time to get vaccinated," said Dr. Fielding. The flu can affect each person differently. Most individuals who get sick are able to treat themselves at home with over-the-counter medications, drinking plenty of fluids, resting and staying home from work or school. It is recommended that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, except to seek out medical care or other necessities. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others."
Residents are encouraged to contact their regular doctor or health plan for information on where and when they can get a flu vaccine. Many local community clinics and pharmacies are offering seasonal flu vaccine for a low fee. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is offering free flu vaccinations at special community outreach events.
To find locations where flu vaccinations are currently available visit http://www.ph.lacounty.gov/ip/flu/FluLocatorMain.htm or call the LA County Information Line at 2-1-1 from any landline or cell phone in the county.
Influenza vaccine is recommended for everyone (except infants under six months of age). It is especially important that certain groups be vaccinated because they are either at greater risk of developing complications from the flu or because they live with or care for others who are at greater risk of developing complications. These groups are:
- Pregnant women
- Children younger than five years of age
- Adults 50 years of age and older
- Anyone who is immunocompromised due to disease or medication
- People of any age with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or who are overweight or obese
- People with chronic medical conditions affecting the nervous system such as multiple sclerosis, seizure disorders, or who are paralyzed
- People who work or live in nursing homes or long- term care facilities as well as health care and day care workers
- Healthcare personnel working in acute care hospitals, longterm care facilities, and intermediate care facilities in Los Angeles County per the Health Officer Order on October 2, 2013
Flu is extremely contagious. Everyone is urged to practice basic hygiene to help reduce the chances of catching either the flu or other illnesses. These healthy habits include:
- Washing your hands frequently, especially after using the restroom and before and after eating
- Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough or sneeze
- Not touching your nose, mouth, or eyes to prevent the spread of germs
- Staying home from work or school when sick
- Information about influenza and flu vaccinations can be found at www.flu.gov
- Spanish-language information about influenza and flu vaccinations can be found at http://espanol.cdc.gov/enes/flu/index.htm
- LA County flu vaccination location finder www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/ip/flu/FluLocatorMain.htm
The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Public Health comprises nearly 4,000 employees and has an annual budget exceeding $750 million. To learn more about Public Health and the work we do please visit http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov, visit our YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/lapublichealth, find us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/lapublichealth, or follow us on Twitter: @LAPublicHealth.