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February could be the peak of mild flu season
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Saturday, 04 February 2012 00:00

Arizona has enjoyed a mild flu season so far this year, but Yavapai County Community Health Services is reminding people that flu season typically peaks here in February.

Yavapai County Community Health SERVICES wants to remind the community that flu season is not over and, in fact, typically peaks around mid-February. YCCHS still recommends getting a flu shot at this point in the season to combat the common but highly debilitating illness.Thanks to the mild weather, Arizona usually doesn’t get hit by influenza as bad as other places, said Karen Smith, infection preventionist at Verde Valley Medical Center.

In fact, Smith said this year’s flu season has been remarkably low-key.

In three weeks of influenza infection monitoring, Smith said there has only been one confirmed case of the flu and only 10 cases across the entire state.

“Most of what we are seeing is things like pnuemonias, illnesses with flu-like symptoms,” Smith said.

While it’s often common language for someone to say they’ve come down with the flu, most of the time it’s a cold or other illness, Smith said, not the actual influenza virus.

Smith said the state health department asks local health care agencies to monitor confirmed flu cases in order to keep accurate data on hand.

It takes awhile for the flu to spread from places like the colder Northeast, Smith said, which is often why cases of flu take until now to start climbing in the Southwest.

The warmer climate means people aren’t packed together inside as much, Smith said, further reducing the chances of spreading the virus.

“Typically we’ll see the numbers start going up,” Smith said. “Being well into January with only 10 cases in Arizona, we’re doing super.”

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, the reported numbers represent a small portion of the actual cases of flu throughout the state, as often people don’t visit the doctor when they are ill.

Last year, the state recorded more than 2,500 cases of the virus.

Smith said the low numbers may be the result of people becoming more educated about influenza prevention.

There’s also plenty of places available these days for people to get their flu shots, said Stephen Everett, an epidemiologist with Yavapai Community Health Services.

Not only are shots available from the county, but they are offered at places like the corner drug store just down the street.

“I don’t really have access to the data on how many people are getting immunized because there are so many places to get the vaccine,” Everett said. “There’s no shortage of vaccine.”

Everett said he recommends people still get a flu shot, particularly young children and the elderly.

While people may be able to get outdoors more in Arizona during the winter, children are still sitting next to each other all day in school.

“Children are a source, when you think about how many are together and the general hygiene of young children,” Everett said. “With older people there’s the risk of developing more complications from the virus.”

Smith said it’s important to distinguish between the actual flu and other illnesses. Since the flu is a respiratory illness, some symptoms overlap, but fevers and aches are generally more severe when it comes to influenza.

Appointments for a flu shot can be made with the county by calling health services in Cottonwood at 639-8132.


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