Butte County sees increase in flu cases

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Enloe Medical Center has seen a recent uptick in the number of patients with flu symptoms, communications and media coordinator Christina Chavira said, with 55 people with flu or flu-like illness admitted to the hospital since the beginning of December.

"We want our local community to be especially sensitive to those with chronic conditions and pregnant women because they are considered at a higher risk", said Department of Public Health Director Robert Resendes.

Concerns have been raised about this year's vaccine after an editorial published in the New England Journal of Medicine last Thursday said it was only 10 percent effective against H3N2 in Australia. Officials are recommending those who haven't received flu vaccines to do so. She added that it's not too late to get a flu vaccine.

Royal Preston Hospital Pic Paul Melling
Royal Preston Hospital Pic Paul Melling

"This is a feature of this year's flu - not only did it start early, but it seemed to occur all over the country more or less simultaneously", Dr. William Schaffner, infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University, told ABC News.

But they're describing this influenza season - which has seen a mix of two strains dominating - as unusual. The hospitals are also restricting visits from family members who show symptoms of influenza. The other type of vaccine - called "trivalent" because it covers three strains of flu - "unfortunately" doesn't cover that B strain.

Along with plenty of rest and fluids, your doctor's office can prescribe an anti-viral to help you feel better, faster.

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Seniors have been the worst-affected, accounting for the majority of hospitalizations and deaths. About 4.5 million people are believed to be infected with the flu over the past week, according to the online tool FluSurvey. There have been fewer than five pediatric deaths.

State health officials on December 27 were prompted by the high number of cases to recommend that hospitals limit visitors and take precautions to prevent and control the spread of the flu. "Certainly we're seeing that in the hospital", he said.

Wakefield said that while both the A and B strains of the flu virus have been reported locally, the more-severe Type A strains have made up the majority of the reported cases.

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First, get the vaccine - there's still time.

"Anyone that's had influenza, and I mean real influenza - not a sniffle or a cough or a cold - but real, true influenza, they'll know how severe this can be", Bogoch said. The shot is created to defend against the top three or four flu viruses that researchers expect will cause the most illness during the flu season.

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