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Flu bug arrives early and in strength

Placer County provides clinics, low- and no-cost vaccinations
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning that the flu season is off to its earliest start in several years and could be a bad one.

The warning came earlier this week and is being backed up locally by Placer County efforts to provide low- or no-cost vaccinations at clinics throughout the area.

At the same time, at least one health expert is going against recommendations from local, state and federal health guidelines by advising people eschew the shots in favor of a more personal approach.

Patricia Orme, county assistant director of public health, said Tuesday that the Centers for Disease Control ranks influenza as the 8th leading cause of death in the U.S. On average, 24,000 Americans died each flu season from the disease, according to the CDC.

“Vaccination is the first and most important step,” Orme said. A registered nurse, Orme said that people are also advised to cover their coughs, stay at home when sick and wash their hands often in an attempt to prevent flu’s spread.

Placer County has held flu clinics at Kings Beach and Roseville this fall and has weekly walk-in immunization hours in Auburn, Roseville and Tahoe. The county’s final low- or no-cost clinic of the season for this year will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 pm. Tuesday at the Roseville county medical clinic, 1130 Conroy Lane.

Dr. Glenn Barney, an Auburn doctor of functional medicine, said the vaccination campaign each year has more to do with federal officials bowing to the pharmaceutical industry’s wishes than good health measures.

Barney said that the actual flu virus is injected in hopes that it will counter-act the disease later on.

“But the No. 1 side effect is the flu,” Barney said. “It’s another way for the pharmaceutical industry to make money and make people ill.”

Barney said that flu can be warded off with the aid of other measures, including taking flu-fighting grape-seed extract, sleeping better and simply consuming a higher amount of water.

Placer County has vaccinated thousands of people so far this winter, Orme said. Healthcare providers and even local pharmacies have inoculations available, she added.

The Associated Press reported that more than a third of Americans have been vaccinated, and that the vaccine formulated for this year is well-matched to the strains of the virus seen so far.

Higher-than-normal reports of flu have come in from Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. The CDC is saying that an uptick like the current one doesn’t usually happen until after Christmas.

Orme said the flu season generally peaks in February so there’s still time for people who haven’t been vaccinated.

“It can last as late as May,” Orme said. “There may be some people who feel that way (that a flu shot would do more harm than good) but the CDC really does recommend it. Being vaccinated is the best way to protect for the flu and complications.”

Gail Quinn of Auburn said she had her shot to ward off the flu four weeks ago. For her, it’s an every-year ritual.

“I regularly get one and for me, it’s worked,” Quinn said. “I haven’t had a bad case of the flu for years and years.”

Tiburon’s Brian McCullough said he’s been procrastinating.

“I haven’t got one but I’m going to,” he said. “I’ve read that it’s important for people over 50 to get the flu shot to prevent a heart condition.”

The CDC estimates that 112 million Americans have been vaccinated so far. Flu vaccinations are recommended for everyone 6 months or older.

North Auburn’s walk-in flu shot program is from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Fridays. Location is the Placer County Medical Clinic, Auburn Annex, 11584 B Ave., North Auburn.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.