Photo/courtesy of U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Dustin Mullen/Released
By Lindsay Darbyshire
Sixteen deaths so far have been reported by the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department in what is being called the worst flu season they have seen.
This means there has been a 40 percent increase in flu-related deaths this year, as compared to the last.
Of the 16 deaths on the Central Coast, two adults were under the age of 64, while the other 14 were over the age of 65, officials said.
The six flu deaths reported the previous year is actually considered a normal flu season, according to Anne McDowell, an epidemiologist with the SLO Public Health Department.
Those most at risk for the flu include older adults, young children, pregnant women, and those with other health conditions such as organ or blood disorders, metabolic disorders, or neurologic conditions, according to the SLO Public Health Department.
“It’s important for people at risk of serious complications—and the people who spend time with them—to protect themselves from the flu,” the agency stated in a press release. “It’s also important to remember that even young, healthy people can sometimes experience serious complications.”
Although the flu is not a reportable illness and the exact numbers are not tracked, public health officials stated there has been an increase in the number of laboratory-confirmed flu cases on the Central Coast.
If you catch the flu, the best thing to do is stay home, avoid contact with other people, rest, stay hydrated, take temperature-reducing medicines, and be on the lookout for more serious signs of the illness, officials stated. Those who are infected are said to no longer be contagious after seven days past the start of their illness and 24 hours with no fever.
More serious symptoms of the flu include difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, chest pain or severe abdominal pain, confusion, sudden dizziness, and severe vomiting. If you experience any of these symptoms, health officials advise seeking immediate medical attention.
“[The] flu can be dangerous and even healthy people can sometimes experience serious complications,” they stated. “If you experience any of these symptoms when you have the flu, seek medical attention immediately.”
In order to protect yourself from the flu, it’s recommended to frequently wash your hands, avoid touching your face, avoid contact with those who are sick, and get the flu shot.
Although, according to the CDC, the flu vaccine was reported to be only 36 percent effective this year, health officials still recommend getting the shot.
“If you get a flu vaccine but still get the flu, you will most likely have more mild illness and less risk of serious complications,” officials stated. “The flu vaccine protects against three to four strains of the flu. If you’ve had one strain, you are still susceptible to the other strains. Get your flu shot!”