While the rest of the nation is seeing a widespread outbreak of influenza cases, Santa Barbara County is recording a much lower number of cases, but authorities are warning that flu season is far from over and there’s still time for people to take preventive action.
Since Oct. 1, 3,710 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations have been reported across the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On the local level, Santa Barbara County has seen one death and about two dozen cases since the flu season began, according to Susan Klein-Rothschild of the county Department of Public Health. Those numbers don’t paint a full picture of local flu, however, because reporting is limited.
Nationwide, the spread of flu began earlier this year and is widespread, she said, but California is one of a handful of states that have not seen a widespread increase of cases.
“Here in Santa Barbara County, we are seeing flu levels that are somewhat lower,” she said.
That’s only based on numbers to date, she said, adding that “the flu season is far from over.”
If history is any marker, the brunt of flu cases are still to come, and Klein-Rothschild said February is typically the time when the CDC records the largest number of cases.
“We would love for people to get vaccinated,” she said, adding that it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to become effective. “It’s still very helpful.”
Click here to find out where to get a flu shot in a location nearest you.
The vaccination offered this year includes a number of strains of the virus, and Klein-Rothschild said the vaccine is effective against 80 percent of the strains out there.
To date, the health department has tested 402 specimens from Santa Barbara County hospitals, and 22 were found to be positive for influenza, she said. Those numbers come from people who are hospitalized and in intensive care and voluntary reports from medical providers, but many cases go unreported.
Health-care providers have also been providing the health department with information, and “they’re saying they haven’t seen many patients with flu, but many with colds and respiratory illnesses that often look like flu,” she said.
Numbers of flu cases in the county seemed to increase at the end of the December, she said.
One death has been confirmed with flu as the official cause in Santa Barbara County. The victim was an 80-year-old woman, said Klein-Rothschild, adding that younger and older people are the most at risk for serious complications from flu.
Click here for more information about the county’s immunization effort