Local health hubs offer vaccines, tips to combat a burgeoning flu bug this season
By Sara Cardine 01/24/2013
Each fall, when temperatures begin to drop, influenza comes out to play. Although flu season’s beginning and end varies according to region, it typically lasts from about October to April and leaves thousands, if not millions, of sick Americans in its wake.
Across the country, flu outbreaks are on the rise during the 2012-2013 season, and some hospitals are releasing all but their most serious patients to make room for the influx. California’s incidence is lower than other states per capita, although local hospital officials admit flu numbers are beginning to outpace what was seen last year.
At Pasadena’s Huntington Hospital, flu incidence began to climb in January, according to Kevin Andrus, executive director of the hospital’s public relations department.
“Fortunately, here in California we’re not seeing the level of exposure that other states are seeing per capita, but we are seeing an increase,” Andrus said. “So far, year-to-date, for the flu season since October we’ve had 25 cases here at Huntington. The majority have occurred this month, so things are really ramping up.”
During last year’s flu season, a total of 57 cases of influenza were reported at Huntington, Andrus added, with fewer than 18 people having contracted it by this time last year. Countywide, 269 flu cases have been reported as of Jan. 18, according to Los Angeles County Public Health department figures.
At Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale, flu numbers were not immediately available, but Linda Greenwood, director of infection prevention, noted a rise in emergency room visits this year, compared to the same time period last year, which could be attributed to flu incidence.
“Influenza has gradually been increasing,” Greenwood said, adding that some years are worse than others. “This happens to be a year when we’re experiencing more influenza than other [years].”
To meet the particularly high demands of this flu season, vaccine manufacturers produced about 145 million doses of the vaccine nationwide, 129 million of which had already been distributed by Jan. 11, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Despite personal anecdotes, flu vaccines do not cause some people to get the flu or to become more susceptible to other viruses, like the common cold, officials confirm.
Locally, flu vaccines are still available at most pharmacies, including Walgreens, CVS and Fair Oaks Pharmacy, as well as major grocery chains, like Vons, that operate pharmacies. Additionally, some hospitals and health centers may still be offering clinics for seniors and members of the public as vaccines become available; flu shots are also available for low-income residents through the Community Health Alliance of Pasadena (CHAP). To search for available flu shots, visit the Web site flushot.healthmap.org/?address, which lets you search for locations by ZIP code.
Aside from vaccinations, local health officials point to a few things people can do to reduce the spread of infection in their homes, offices and while out in public.
For example, employees at both Verdugo Hills and Huntington encourage patients and visitors to practice respiratory etiquette, which means covering up coughs and sneezes with a hand, tissue or shirt sleeve and avoiding places where at-risk populations may be if you have flu-like symptoms.
Both Andrus and Greenwood advise rigorous hand washing for at least 15 to 20 seconds after coming in contact with another person or a hard surface.
“We’ve got a lot of speed washers out there, but you need to do it for 20 seconds,” Greenwood says. “And avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth — that’s how germs get around.”
Finally, regardless of your sick-time situation or your to-do list, refrain from going to work if you think you may be coming down with something. And instead of spreading germs, spread the word about flu prevention.
625 S. Fair Oaks Blvd., Pasadena
(626) 397-5000 | huntingtonhospital.com
Verdugo Hills Hospital
1812 Verdugo Blvd., Glendale
Flu Hotline: (818) 949-4003 | verdugohillshospital.org
Community Health Alliance of Pasadena (CHAP)
Main clinic: 1855 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena
(626) 398-6300 | chapcare.org