Dr. Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health, today urged Californians to continue to take precautions against the spread of the novel H1N1 virus (swine flu), which persists in California despite the end of the regular flu season.
“Flu activity usually declines significantly in the summer months, but we are continuing to see cases of H1N1,” Horton said. “We remind all Californians to continue to take common-sense steps to prevent the flu from spreading by covering their coughs, washing hands and staying home when they are sick.”
Dr. Horton’s offered the reminder as local health officials announced the death of the 17th Californian from the novel H1N1 virus, a middle-aged man from Solano County. Preliminary information from local health officials indicate that 10 of the 17 Californians who have died had pre-existing health conditions including chronic respiratory conditions like asthma and emphysema. Another common factor appears to be obesity and morbid obesity.
In addition, at least 142 Californians have been hospitalized due to the novel H1N1 virus, while many more have been sickened at home and have recovered. The majority of H1N1 cases continue to be mild in severity.
"There is much we still do not know about this novel flu virus,” Horton said. “We urge everyone to remain vigilant through the summer and take common sense steps to prevent the spread of the virus.”
Dr. Horton said ongoing monitoring shows that California hospital admissions and emergency room visits due to the flu remain higher than what is normally seen this time of year and also higher than what is typically seen during the traditional flu season.
Approximately 4,500 people die each year from seasonal flu. The annual influenza season usually runs from October to May.
The first known U.S. cases of H1N1 were detected in California in April. CDPH undertook an aggressive response to the detection of the novel flu virus in coordination with county and local health care providers.
While public health activities related to influenza typically decrease this time of year, CDPH is taking action to continue monitoring the flu and to prepare for the possibility of a severe flu season this fall, including:
In addition, officials from CDC have developed guidance for preventing and managing the novel H1N1 influenza in the workplace, when traveling, at summer camps and when pregnant.
More information is available at the CDPH Web site and that of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDPH also has a telephone hotline: 1-888-865-0564.