The influenza virus is spreading in Los Angeles with a vengeance this week.
The illness “is on the rise in Los Angeles County,” Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, interim chief of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, tells us.
He's not so sure the number of local infections will peak in the following week or so, as one expert suggested, but he did say, “While we are unable to project how long the rise will continue, based on our experience in previous years, we can expect the rise to continue for at least several more weeks, perhaps longer.”
And therein lies a little good news:
There's still time to get your flu shot.
“There is still plenty of time for individuals who have not received the vaccine to do so,” Gunzenhauser said.
It's not foolproof, however.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control notes that, because of the unpredictability of the variants of influenza that are flourishing this season, “the vaccine’s ability to protect against those viruses may be reduced, although vaccinated people may have a milder illness if they do become infected.”
The CDC says H3N2 versions of the flu have been most common so far this season, but even so there have been variants that “that make them different from that season’s vaccine virus.”
But if you get your shot and you catch a version of H3N2, you're likely to have a less unpleasant bout of influenza, the CDC says. (Read more here).
It certainly seems worth a try.
Gunzenhauser said it's possible, as we reported yesterday, that L.A.'s reported rise in flu reports is the result of locals going to the East Coast for the holidays and then returning with the virus:
It does appear that the rise in influenza illness began a little earlier in some states on the East Coast than in California. Right now, 43 states in the nation are reporting “widespread” influenza illness; whereas in California, illness is occurring on a regional basis. This indicates that there is still time for individuals in Los Angeles County to receive the vaccine.
The L.A. County Department of Public Health says three people in the county have died from the flu virus so far this season. The first victim was an elderly woman from the Pomona Valley who passed last month, officials said.
Gunzenhauser says it's likely that “several hundred persons or more” will die from influenza in L.A. County this year. Here's what you should know to stay alive, he said:
Persons who are at higher risk for complications from influenza illness should see their primary care providers if they develop symptoms that could be influenza. Antiviral medications can be prescribed and reduce the risk of severe illness, especially if started within 48 hours of the first signs of illness. Persons at “higher risk” include children younger than 2 years, adults aged 65 years and older, persons with immunosuppression or other chronic diseases (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, persons who are morbidly obese and residents of nursing homes.
Stay healthy, L.A.