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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 4:43 pm | Fair 62º

 
 
 
Your Health
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Advice

Flu Season May Be Off to Slow Start, but Officials Warn Public to Take Their Shots

Health-care professionals say vaccinations remain best way to protect against virus; free clinics make it easy

Lina Salibi comforts her 18-month-old daughter, Naya, while Nicole Greenwood, a registered nurse with the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department medical clinic on Santa Barbara’s Lower Eastside, administers a flu vaccine injection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the vaccine for everyone over 6 months old. Click to view larger
Lina Salibi comforts her 18-month-old daughter, Naya, while Nicole Greenwood, a registered nurse with the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department medical clinic on Santa Barbara’s Lower Eastside, administers a flu vaccine injection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the vaccine for everyone over 6 months old. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

Flu season is officially underway in Santa Barbara County, and though it’s off to a slower start than normal, doctors and public health officials are urging the public to take a proactive stance against the illness by getting vaccinated.

Dr. Charles Fenzi, who sees patients at the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, said that since the beginning of October, the clinic has had three patients test positive for influenza.

That’s fewer than in previous years, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported earlier this month that cases of influenza remain low across the country.

Flu outbreaks can happen as early as October and can last as late as May, the CDC said.

As a health-care professional, Fenzi said he gets a vaccine every year as well as recommending it to his patients.

“I think it’s a very good idea,” he told Noozhawk.

There are two types of vaccines, as well as a nasal spray, which is recommended for patients with healthy immune systems, he said.

Those with asthma, heart disease, any other chronic disease or compromised immune systems should have the vaccine.

The CDC recommends the vaccine for everyone 6 months or older, including pregnant women.

The number of flu cases usually peaks at the beginning year, Fenzi said, and it takes about two weeks after the vaccine to develop full immunity.

Health-care providers are offering vaccines this year against three strains of the virus, the trivalent vaccine, as well as a vaccine with four strains of the virus, known as the quadrivalent vaccine.

It’s possible to get sick with the flu even if you’ve been vaccinated, if you are exposed to a flu virus not included in the vaccine or someone who is exposed to the virus before the two weeks it takes to gain protection.

Dania Gamez, 5, receives a nasal dose of flu vaccine at the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department medical clinic on Santa Barbara’s Lower Eastside. Over the next several weeks, the agency is hosting several free flu-shot clinics around the county. Click to view larger
Dania Gamez, 5, receives a nasal dose of flu vaccine at the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department medical clinic on Santa Barbara’s Lower Eastside. Over the next several weeks, the agency is hosting several free flu-shot clinics around the county. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

Experts still say it’s the best way to protect against the illness, however.

Fenzi also recommends that people coming into contact with people who have the flu, like caregivers, can use medications like Tamiflu and Relenza as a prophylaxis against the flu.

Dr. Karen Smith, director of the California Department of Public Health and the state’s chief health officer, issued a statement earlier this month, urging Californians to get the vaccine.

“Unlike some other infections, a person with influenza may be contagious and infect others before they have or show any symptoms,” she said.

“Annual vaccination is the most reliable way to protect against infection and, therefore, stop transmission of influenza to others.”

During the 2014-2015 flu season, there were 78 flu-associated deaths in the state, according to the California Influenza Surveillance Report.

The state Department of Public Health said that two of this season’s vaccine components, the influenza A, known as H3N2, and influenza B, known as Yamagata lineage, strains, have been updated to match the viruses Californians are likely to face during the upcoming flu season.

Those interested in a vaccine can use the CDC’s vaccine locator to find shots being administered nearby. Many local pharmacies are offering the vaccines at low cost for walk-in patients.

Over the next several weeks, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department is also hosting clinics where people can receive free flu shots, according to Ellen Willis-Conger, assistant deputy of community health.

Willis-Conger said people experiencing the symptoms of flu — fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, fatigue, body aches and chills  — should stay home when sick and wash their hands frequently.

Whether on the South Coast or in the North County, those looking to receive the vaccine can get one from 3 to 7 p.m. Nov. 19.

That’s when the Goleta Valley Community Center, 5679 Hollister Ave. in Old Town Goleta, will be hosting a vaccination clinic. At the same time, the Veterans’ Memorial Community Center will be providing vaccines at 313 W. Tunnell St. in Santa Maria.

Another clinic will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. Dec. 5 at Lompoc Fire Station 1 at 115 S. G St. in Lompoc.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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