The strain of flu active this year tends to cause more serious illness, and Public Health officials are urging people to get a flu shot. The past two weeks have brought more people down with influenza in the county, and five outbreaks have occurred in residential health-care facilities. The Cottage hospitals’ emergency rooms have been strained by the number of flu patients, and they are prioritizing higher risk patients, such as the very old or the very young, pregnant women, or people with heart or lung issues.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) identifies H3N2 as the predominant strain so far, which tests in Santa Barbara County are bearing out. Due to viral mutation, H3N2 is the least affected by the flu vaccine, but getting the injectable vaccine prevents flu in more than 30 percent of cases, according to the CDC, with even higher rates or protection for other types of flu.
Cottage recommends calling a primary physician or clinic about anti-viral medication at the first sign of illness. Pediatricians must be consulted before giving an anti-viral to a child, the hospital stated.
The flu is manifesting as a cough and sore throat, according to the CDC, then, as an immune response is triggered, fever and muscle or body aches can develop. The cough makes flu very contagious. Those who are sick are advised to remain home, stay hydrated, and rest. When taken within 48 hours of onset, anti-viral medications can help. Good hygiene — washing hands, avoiding touching face, nose, and mouth — can also help prevent flu.
The signs of a severe flu, said Cottage, include difficult breathing or shortness of breath, pain in the chest or abdomen, dizziness or confusion, persistent vomiting, bluish skin. In children, severe symptoms include fast breathing, dry diapers, failing to interact, irritability to touch or holding, no tears when crying.