Los Angeles County's top health official Monday reported this season's first cases of flu, including one severe enough for the person to be hospitalized, and urged residents to get immunized.
"While occasional reports of cases and sometimes low levels of influenza can continue throughout the summer and early fall, these recent reports suggest a possible early start to the influenza season in our area," Dr. Jonathan Fielding said.
"We encourage everyone, six months of age or older, to get either the influenza shot or the nasal spray vaccine, and to practice basis hygiene, such as hand washing, to prevent the spread of influenza and other respiratory diseases," he said.
Laboratory reports identify the hospitalized patient's strain as H1N1, which is covered by this year's vaccine along with two or three other common strains.
It can take up to two weeks to develop a immune response, so health officials urged vaccination as early in the flu season as possible.
Each year, up to 220,000 people are hospitalized and an average of 24,000 die nationwide as a result of influenza, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Early symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, headache and muscle ache, though it can affect each person differently, Fielding said.
Vaccination is particularly important for those at greater risk or those caring for others at risk of developing complications, including:
- pregnant women
- children younger than 5 years old
- adults 50 years old or older
- anyone whose immune system is compromised due to disease or medication
- anyone with a chronic medical condition such as heart disease, diabetes or who is overweight or obese
- people who work or live in nursing homes or long-term facilities
- health care and day care workers
Low-cost flu vaccines are available at many pharmacies and supermarkets, including those in Calabasas.
Those without health insurance can seek free immunizations sponsored by the county. Details can be found atwww.publichealth.lacounty.gov or by calling 211.
—City News Service.