By ERIK CHALHOUB, Managing Editor
The flu season this year is shaping up to be worse than normal, as I can attest to.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that flu activity has “increased significantly” over the past several weeks. More troubling, it appears that the H3N2 strain is dominating this year, which is known to be associated with more hospitalizations and deaths in young children and those age 65 or older.
According to the California Department of Public Health, as of Dec. 23, 17 people under the age of 65 have died from the flu across the state since the season started in October.
In late December, the Monterey County Health Department reported a person under the age of 65 had died due to the flu in that county.
I was struck by the virus in mid-December, which took me out of the office for a week. I still haven’t fully recovered from it.
To help combat the spread of the strain, the Santa Cruz County Public Health Division is urging people to get vaccinated. To find out where to get a vaccine, health officials point to the Vaccine Finder website at vaccinefinder.org.
Vaccination is important for people who are at high risk of serious flu-related complications: young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease, county officials advise.
The CDC also recommends the use of antiviral medications in addition to vaccination, due to the severity of the H3N2 strain, as the vaccine’s effectiveness is estimated at only 32 percent.
You can also prevent the spread of the flu by:
• Covering your coughs and sneezes.
• Washing your hands often and thoroughly with soap and warm water or an alcohol-based sanitizer.
• Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
And most importantly, stay home when you are sick.
Erik Chalhoub can be reached at 761-7353 or [email protected].