An “influenza virus infection” claimed the life of a fifth Santa Clara County resident earlier this month. County officials are recommending those who haven’t already received the flu vaccination to do so, according to an announcement from the Public Health Department.
The most recent death was an individual under the age of 65 years. All five deceased residents had not been vaccinated, according to county health officials.
Along with the Emergency Medical Services Agency and Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, the Public Health Department recommends that any residents experiencing flu-like symptoms to “stay home, drink fluids and take medicine for fever.”
“People should monitor their own symptoms and if they are getting worse, contact their medical provider,” the Jan. 10 announcement states.
County health officials recommend that all individuals six months of age and older, including pregnant women, be vaccinated against influenza.
“The influenza vaccination is the best way to protect your family from complications of influenza,” said Dr. George Han, the county’s Assistant Health Officer. “It’s not too late to get vaccinated. Even if the vaccine does not prevent you from getting the flu, it will make it less likely for you to be seriously ill and require hospitalization.”
People at risk for complications from the flu have chronic conditions, are pregnant, or are very young or very old.
“For the vast majority of us who are not in a risk group, we will get better,” said Dr. Jeffery Leinen, Medical Director at SCVMC Emergency Department. “If you’re sick, stay home and take care of yourself. But if you are seriously ill and at risk for complications from the flu, contact your medical provider because you may need additional treatment or hospital care.”
Santa Clara Valley Medical Center’s Emergency Department has seen an increase of patients who have been diagnosed with the flu. In the first week of December 2017, only 5 patients were diagnosed as having an influenza virus. The numbers continued to increase and for the week of January 1-7, 40 patients were diagnosed with influenza.
“We see increased flu activity with the higher daily ambulance traffic to hospitals. Typically we have 220 emergency medical transports a day. In December 2017, there were 240 daily transports,” said Dr. Kenneth Miller, Medical Director of the Emergency Medical Systems Agency. “And so far this year, Jan. 1-10, 2018, we averaged 264 daily transports to local hospitals. That compares to an average of 253 daily transports for the same time period last year. Needless to say, emergency departments are extremely busy and wait times are long.”
Health officials recommend that people take the following additional steps to protect themselves and loved ones from the flu:
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your elbow when you cough or sneeze.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth, since hands may become contaminated with live influenza virus.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. If soap and water are not available, an alcohol-based hand rub may be used.
• Try to avoid close contact with sick people. Stay at least six feet away from individuals who are visibly ill.
• If you are sick, stay home from work or school until you have been symptom-free for 24 hours. Going to work or school while ill may pass the disease to someone who is at risk for serious complications.
For more information about influenza, visit sccphd.org/flu.