Citing the rising number of flu cases nationally and locally, Los Angeles County health officials this week issued an urgent call for residents to get vaccinated and take precautions to avoid spreading the sickness if they do become ill.
“A single influenza infection can cause serious health problems,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, the county’s interim health director. “It’s less likely for those without chronic diseases, but it’s still a possibility. And also everyone should realize that if you do develop the flu, you can spread it to others, including your family members, coworkers and others in the community. So for those reasons, we really encourage everyone six months of age or older to get the vaccine.”
Health officials said 36 people have died from complications of the flu in Los Angeles County during the current flu season. That compares to 13 at the same time last year. Emergency room visits due to flu are up 130 percent from last year, officials said.
Health officials locally and statewide said people who experience flu symptoms — fever, chills, sore throat, muscle aches, headaches or nasal congestion —should contact their doctor. They also stressed the need for people to stay home from school or work if they get sick.
“Its very important for people who are sick to be able to stay home,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of the county Department of Public Health. “And that requires the cooperation of so many of our business partners. People need to be allowed to stay home when they’re sick, and they need to be allowed to stay home to care for their young children when they are sick.
“There are way too many people who are showing up in the workplace and in our schools with symptoms of influenza, and we need to make it easy for those people to take care of themselves and stay home and take appropriate precautions,” she said.
Gunzenhauser stressed it is not too late to get vaccinated.
“There’s still time for every person who’s six months of age or older in Los Angeles County to still receive the flu vaccine, but time is short and we hope you get vaccinated soon if you haven’t,” he said.