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Swine flu spreading rapidly in California, health officials say


The swine flu virus is spreading rapidly throughout California, public health officials said today, citing physician reports of higher-than-normal flu illnesses for this time of year.

More than 5% of patients coming into doctor’s offices are presenting flu-like symptoms, which is much higher than the usual 2%, according to an estimate based on about 50 physicians across California who monitor flu activity for the state.

“We are seeing a continued ramp-up of the virus activity,” Dr. Mark Horton, California’s public health officer, said at a news conference today. “That is very unusual for this time of year.”

Horton said he considered the flu outbreak to be consistent with what is seen during a “moderately severe seasonal flu outbreak.” More than half of local health departments throughout the state are seeing active flu outbreaks, he said.

The H1N1 flu strain is by far the predominant flu strain circulating in California; more than 95% of the flu samples the state has received are testing positive for that strain.

Since this spring, more than 3,000 people in California have been hospitalized with the H1N1 flu strain, and 219 people have died, Horton said. Most of those who had died had underlying medical conditions, such as asthma, chronic lung disease, muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis, but some were otherwise healthy.

Complications of the H1N1 flu include pneumonia and bronchitis, and can worsen preexisting medical problems, like asthma and congestive heart failure. Most people who get the flu can recover in less than two weeks without seeing a doctor or taking antiviral drugs.

California received its first shipment of 400,000 doses of nasal spray swine flu vaccine last week, and this week received 150,000 additional nasal spray doses and 200,000 injectable doses. Last week’s vaccine supply was shipped to private clinicians, and a portion of this week’s shipment is to be delivered to public health departments.

The swine flu doses are being directed initially to those considered at higher risk for the virus, including pregnant women, healthcare workers, adults between ages 25 and 64 who have underlying medical conditions, children older than 6 months and young adults up to age 24. Because infants younger than 6 months cannot get the vaccine, their caregivers and parents are asked to get the inoculation.

The state is continuing to see somewhat larger percentages of illnesses in the younger group, while senior citizens are least likely to be infected.

The public is also being asked to get a separate, regular seasonal flu shot.

-- Rong-Gong Lin II

Photo: Student nurse Noemi Gomez prepares to give a flu shot to 13-year-old Gaby Sasson. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times


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Comments () | Archives (7)

The increase in cases coming into Dr. offices across California is most likely the result of the increased fear surrounding the "swine flu"; thus making it more likely for an individual who experiences flu-like symptoms to visit thier doctor, when in the past they would stay home when such symptoms occur. This paranoia would attribute to the 3% increase in cases coming into doctor offices and does not necesarrily mean the flu is affecting more people, but only that more cases are being recorded.

what's up with that picture? Is this like a drive-thru vaccination?? Pops is lounging, waiting for a milk shake and some codeine?

Could it be that the increase in numbers due to the paranoia that the media and government has created?

Shame on you LA Times for running a headline like this!

An increase of people coming in with "flu like symptoms" does not mean swine flu is "spreading rapidly" across California.

First of all, is there any kind of scientific confirmation that all these supposed cases are really swine flu?

Second, a simple cold can give you "flu like symptoms".

Just because a "health official" says swine flu is spreading doesn't mean you take this at face value then broadcast this panic inducing statement all over the place. Your job as journalists and editors is to find out if this is so, and quite clearly, there are no facts to back up this statement.

This must be one of the most irresponsible pieces o journalism I've seen in a long time.

What are you trying to do, sell flu shots?

We were ALL so ill this past winter and spring here in Portland, OR. Everyone I saw and everyone I knew had something like walking pneumonia for months. Some of us think that may have been a bout of swine flu, but no one really knows. I myself had walking pneumonia for about ten weeks in February, March and April.

My daughter was sick this week with a high fever, a blood shot eye and a headache. The nurse at the doctor's office said not to bring her in. I was not planning on it but I wanted them to know she was sick. They said a high fever is not unusual for three days. Then they seem fine for a day or two and then get really sick. Well that seemed to hold true... 3 days of fever and no energy... but no muscle aches. Then fever free for one day. But there it diverges from what they told me. That night she had a low fever again, runny nose and sneezing. But it was really not severe. So I kept her home one more day (4 total). She has been fever free all day today and symptom free. So I'm taking her back to school tomorrow.
We have NO idea if this was the regular flu, H1N1 or just a really bad cold. We will probably never know because the doctor didn't want to see her and they don't have either of the flu vaccines in yet.
So really... the best thing is just to make sure your child has enough time to rest and recover from whatever ails them and go from there. There are no firm answers out there right now it seems. And the vaccines are not getting out to the CA residents in time for the wave of flu they knew was coming. It just took too long to develop and test apparently.
I can not take the regular or H1N1 shots anyway, because I'm allergic to the sulfa base. So I've always just cut down on my activities, pumped the vitamins and Pom juice and gotten plenty of rest.
My wish is that everyone can give their bodies extra support this fall and that we can all have some peace of mind... that does not seem to be coming from the media or the doctors. Good luck all!


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