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Santa Barbara County Immune From California Flu Spike So Far

Santa Barbara County health officials say that the county has been immune so far to the recent, rapid spike in cases of influenza in California.

Over the past three weeks, “an alarming increase in influenza outbreak in health-care facilities, particularly skilled-nursing facilities, has been reported,” the county Public Health Department announced Friday.

For the first week of January, the California Department of Public Health reported “widespread” flu activity in the state, including five laboratory-confirmed flu deaths for patients up to age 64 and 23 laboratory-confirmed flu outbreaks.

The first two months of the year make up peak flu season, and though the number of cases in the county reflects that, county Public Health spokeswoman Susan Klein-Rothschild said the county so far has kept clear of the state’s overall spike in flu activity.

According to the county’s own flu report, the latest of which is from Dec. 24, close to 6 percent of outpatient visits in the county in mid-December were due to “influenza-like illness.” Last year, that number was 0 percent, and the year before that, close to 4 percent.

County sentinel providers — partnerships of health-related agencies and organizations that monitor flu activity — reported flu-like illness in 52 patients seen in the third- and second-to-last weeks of 2016, along with no confirmed intensive-care unit hospitalizations for those 64 and under and no known flu-related deaths.

The Public Health Department said the severity of the state’s flu cases this season has been worse as well due to a strain that hits the elderly and those with an impaired immune system extra hard.

“The good news is the current influenza vaccine is a good match for circulating strains and community members can still get vaccinated,” the department said.

Those with health conditions that leave them liable to more severe illness should seek medical care right away, and anyone over six months of age should receive a vaccination, the department said.

Those with the flu should avoid contact with others, especially those at a higher risk for severe illness. Frequent hand washing and not touching one’s face are also recommended when working with others.

Flu vaccines are available at local pharmacy chains such a CVS and Rite Aid. Sansum Clinic has two Santa Barbara walk-in clinics at 215 Pesetas Lane and 317 W. Pueblo St., with vaccines available 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Fridays.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman 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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