Stanislaus County health officials have advised that influenza, specifically the H1N1 virus, is active once again in the county.
According to Chronic Disease Prevention Manager Esmeralda Gonzalez of the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency, there have already been four deaths in the county attributed to the virus this flu season.
Gonzalez stated that Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act restrictions prohibit her from reporting the cities in which the deceased persons resided, but she did say three of the deaths were females aged 54 to 61 and one death was a male, age 78.
Statewide, there have been 45 deaths in California attributed to influenza according to a state report and another 50 deaths are being investigated to determine if they were caused by the flu.
Information from the California Department of Public Heath stated the H1N1 flu appears to be the predominant strain circulating both statewide and in Stanislaus County.
The H1N1 virus, which emerged during a 2009 pandemic, causes more illness in children and young adults compared to older adults. However, it causes illness in all age groups.
Because of the flu threat, Oak Valley Hospital officials said they have changed some of their visiting rules to include not allowing anyone under the age of 14 in the hospital and care centers unless they are a patient. The concern is that children younger than 14 could spread the virus or be exposed to patients who are sick with influenza.
One of the precautions residents can take is to get a flu shot. This year’s flu vaccine protects against the strains circulating in the state.
Typically, the flu season peaks in February and March in Stanislaus County and the flu vaccine only takes two weeks to become fully effective. It is recommended especially that pregnant women and other people at higher risk for severe influenza be vaccinated.
Other precautions include washing hands with soap and water, avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth and when coughing or sneezing, to do it into your elbow.
Gonzalez stressed that those who are ill or feel sick should stay home from work or school to avoid passing the virus to others.
Flu symptoms may include fever, headache, tiredness, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, and body aches.