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Placer County bracing for possible flu outbreak

Calif. among last states to be hit hard by virus
By: Amy Lobenberg, Journal Staff Writer
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Influenza has claimed the lives of three Sacramento County residents since the start of 2014 and continues to spread regionally, with WebMD.com reporting a “moderate to severe” outbreak in Placer County.

A news release from the California Department of Public Health states that influenza is on the rise in California, with the H1N1 virus being the most prominent strain.

Placer County schools, businesses and doctors’ offices are gearing up for an influx of infected patients and others seeking the vaccine.

Dr. Gawayne Vaughan of Auburn Medical Group starting vaccinating patients in September and said he has seen a few cases of influenza since then.

“It’s not as widespread as other places around the country,” Vaughan said. “It started out pretty severely on the East Coast and is kind of progressing over here. We are usually the last to get hit.”

Vaughan also noted that because of the delay in the flu virus hitting California, it is not too late for individuals to receive affective flu shots

“The good thing about the vaccine is they guessed right this year. … We know that they predicted correctly,” Vaughan said. “Even now, you can get your vaccine and get the protection you need. It takes one to two weeks to kick in, but getting it now is the best thing to do.”

Local schools are on alert for flu-like symptoms in students and are bracing for the possible uptick in influenza diagnoses.

Auburn Union School District Nurse Becky Dittemore and E.V. Cain Middle School health assistant Carol Francis said they have not seen any cases of the flu at Auburn schools so far.

“I have not heard of anything in particular, but of course, today is our first day back from break,” Dittemore said. “We will know better towards the end of the week.”

Placer High School Principal Peter Efstathiu also reported that there have been no instances of the virus at the high school.

“There has been nothing out of the ordinary,” Efstathiu said. “I have heard that we are bracing for it because apparently it is going to hit California soon, but nothing has changed as far as our attendance goes.”

Placer County sheriff’s spokeswoman Dena Erwin said there have been no flu outbreaks at the Auburn office, which is one of the largest employers in the county, or at the Placer County Jail.

“In briefing every day, we have not had a lot of sick calls,” Erwin said. “I have not heard of anyone being sick with the flu. Usually people are encouraged to stay home so that they don’t spread the germs.”

She also mentioned that Placer County Sheriff’d Department correctional officers, deputies, jail employees, court employees and inmates are given free flu shots to ensure against an outbreak.

According to local health officials, flu season in the United States peaks during January and February. Individuals most at risk are seniors age 65 and older; children, especially those younger than 2 years old; and people with chronic health conditions.

Complications from the sickness can include bacterial pneumonia, ear or sinus infections, dehydration, worsening of chronic health conditions and, in some cases, death. Each year, between 5 and 20 percent of U.S. residents get the flu, and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized for flu-related complications.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone over the age of six months receive a flu shot annually, with some rare exceptions. Vaccines are available in Auburn at Target, CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens and Safeway, among other locations. Individuals can also receive flu shots through their health insurance, doctor’s office and at local clinics.

There have been no reports of shortages of the flu vaccine in Placer County.