Flu season picks up momentum as it heads towards California

January 8, 2013 12:00:01 AM PST
Chances are you or someone you know, has come down with a fever, sore throat, and body aches. That's because the current flu season is gaining momentum, starting earlier in the season and affecting more people than usual.

Brenda Cabrera is the mother of a two-month-old baby boy. On Monday, she took her son to a clinic for a checkup and urged her family to get vaccinated for the flu as well because she's worried about her baby getting sick with the potentially dangerous virus.

"When we cough we try to cover our mouth with our our elbow and when we get sick we come to the doctor and get our shots when we need them," she said.

As kids head back to school from the winter break, health officials are asking other families to do the same. Many are gearing up to handle an influx of cases.

"It's starting a littler earlier than normal," said Fresno County Department of Public Health Assistant Director Dave Luchini. "Usually in california we see peak flu activity in the month of February, but everything around the nation is about a month ahead of time. We wouldn't be surprised if we see peak flu activity in January and it can usually last between 12-15 weeks," he said.

Luchini expects this year's strain to hit patients hard. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the predominant type of flu circulating the United States is H3N2 Influenza A, which tends to be more severe.

"It's picked up across the nation," said Luchini. "And it's moving it's way westward."

Right now, the flu is racing across more than 30 states and is leaving behind a deadly trail as it inches closer to California.

So far, 18 children under the age of 18 have died from the flu and more than 2,000 people were hospitalized through the end of last month.

School nurses are now urging families to take preventative measures to keep themselves safe. Clovis Unified Nurse Practitioner Roberta Bavin suggested those six months and older get vaccinated. She said washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is also important, as well as not sharing food and drinks.

"The incubation period is about a day or so before symptoms start until about five to seven days afterwards so you could be transmitting the flu before you even know you're sick."

Both Bavin and Luchini said it's not too late for families to get vaccinated and many places have plenty of flu shots to go around.