Dr. Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), announced today that California has its first pediatric death associated with influenza this year. The child was a resident of Orange County.
“This is a tragic reminder of the potential for the flu virus to cause serious illness and even death,” Horton said. “I urge all Californians to take preventive measures to reduce their exposure to influenza.”
To stop the spread of influenza and other respiratory illnesses, all Californians should take the following precautions:
• Stay home when sick to avoid spreading illness to co-workers and friends
• Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue and properly dispose of used tissues
• Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to get rid of most germs and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
• Stay healthy by eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water and getting adequate rest and exercise.
In addition, CDPH recommends influenza vaccine for:
• Individuals with underlying chronic medical conditions
• Adults aged 50 and older
• Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities
• All women who will be pregnant during influenza season.
• Children 6 months to 5 years of age
• Healthcare workers with direct patient care
• Individuals who live with or care for an elderly person or a child less than five years old
• Anyone who wishes to reduce the chances of becoming ill with influenza or spreading influenza to others
“It is not too late for Californians to receive a flu vaccine,” Horton said.
Children younger than nine years of age getting a flu vaccine for the first time will need two doses of vaccine this season. Healthy individuals ages two to 49 can now receive the nasal-spray flu vaccine, also known as Flumist®.
Influenza activity in California has been upgraded this week to “widespread,” which is defined by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as “outbreaks of influenza or increases in influenza-like illnesses and recent laboratory-confirmed influenza in at least half the regions of the state.”
Every year, more than 225,000 people are hospitalized and more than 35,000 die in the United States due to influenza and its complications. Most influenza-related hospitalizations and deaths occur in the elderly, young children and persons of any age who have medical conditions that place them at increased risk for complications from influenza.