There are now five documented cases of the flu in Plumas County (Portola and Quincy thus far), and the county’s health department is reminding residents to get their flu shots.
According to public health’s Tina Venable, about 1,200 people were vaccinated through the agency’s annual drive-thru clinics.
Flu shots are still available at the health department’s office in Quincy, and residents can call to make an appointment. The agency also visited area schools last week and administered approximately 400 flu shots and doses of flumist.
In addition to the public health department, residents can obtain flu vaccines at their local health care clinics, as well as at area pharmacies.
The flu virus can spread directly and indirectly. Tiny droplets expelled when someone coughs, sneezes or talks, can spread the virus if it lands on another person or is inhaled.
The virus also can live as long as 24 hours on hard surfaces, so an individual can get the flu by touching objects infected with the virus and then touching their nose, mouth or eyes.
The Centers for Disease Control recommend the best way to protect oneself from the flu is getting a flu shot, but also acknowledges the effectiveness of the vaccination depends on how well vaccine doctors predict the most common strains of the virus that will be active. Some years the flu shot is 70 percent effective, and other years it doesn’t fare as well.
Last year’s flu vaccine was about 29 percent effective according to Venable, and it’s too soon to tell this year as flu season is just getting underway.
For those worried that they can get the flu from the vaccine, the CDC stresses that it is made with a killed virus, making it impossible to get the flu from a flu shot. The CDC recommends getting a flu shot by the end of October since it takes time for the body to develop immunity and antibodies — usually about two weeks. But since flu season can last well into the spring, it’s never too late to get one.
The CDC also recommends preventative actions one can take — avoiding people who are sick, properly covering coughs and sneezes into a tissue or sleeve, and proper hand washing.
It is a cold or the flu?
Sometimes it can be hard to tell if an illness is a cold or the flu. Generally, a cold affects the upper respiratory tract with symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing and sometimes a low-grade fever, especially in infants.
The flu affects the lower respiratory tract, impacting the lungs (and that’s what makes it so dangerous for seniors or those with chronic health conditions). The fever is higher with the flu, sometimes accompanied with vomiting. Antibiotics are not effective against the flu, but antiviral medications such as Tamiflu may reduce the duration of the illness if taken within two days of when symptoms appear.
Those who become sick should stay home to avoid putting others at risk.
The CDC advises people who are not using a fever-reducing medicine to stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone.