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Press Contact: Matthai Chakko, (510) 981-7008

Flu season lasts until May

Berkeley, California (Wednesday, January 24, 2018) - Protect yourself and others from this year's flu by getting vaccinated, washing your hands with soap and water and staying home if you're sick.

These recommendations from Berkeley's Health Officer have greater importance with this year's predominant strain leading to more severe illness and hospitalizations and making this the most severe flu season since at least the 2009 influenza pandemic.

While Berkeley and State public health officials 2018-01-24 hhcs-flu-vaccinate-family-and-yourecommend annual flu shots for everyone 6 months and older, some groups have a heightened need for flu vaccination because they are at high-risk for serious flu-related complications that can lead to hospitalization or death:

  • pregnant women
  • children under five years of age and especially under 2 years old
  • those 65 or older
  • those with medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease

People can get the flu as late as May. To prevent infection, Berkeley Public Health recommends:

  • Get a flu shot every year
  • Avoid contact with those who are ill
  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands

Practice other good health habits such as getting plenty of sleep, being physically active, managing stress, drinking plenty of fluids, and eating nutritious food.

"Vaccination will prevent infection in a large number of cases," said Dr. Karen Smith, the state health officer.  "If disease does occur after vaccination, the vaccine can reduce the severity of flu symptoms."

The vaccine is also critical for caregivers of anyone at high risk including children younger than 6 months, who are too young to get a flu vaccine.

"The flu vaccine protects yourself," said Dr. Robert Benjamin, Berkeley's Acting Health Officer. "But it also protects those around you - and especially the most vulnerable - by limiting their exposure to the virus."

Flu activity is increased statewide, where there have been 32 deaths. Though there have been no flu-related deaths in Berkeley, cases have been on the rise. The predominant strain this year appears to cause more severe illness, more hospitalizations, and more deaths, especially in people with certain medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease.

If you think you might have influenza, Berkeley Public Health recommends the following:

  • Stay home - Don’t return to school or home until at least 24 hours after your fever has subsided. If other symptoms persist, more rest may be needed. Influenza virus is highly contagious and spreads easily. Avoid contact with others, stay hydrated, and rest.
  • Seek treatment early - If you are in a group at higher risk for complications from the flu call your healthcare provider to see if anti-viral medications are needed. Because these medications are most effective when given early, do not delay in seeking treatment.
  • Use your primary healthcare provider and outpatient clinics as the first option for treatment of moderate symptoms, so emergency rooms can treat those who truly require emergency care.

Those who have health insurance (Blue Cross, Medi-Cal, Kaiser, etc.) should check with their regular health care provider to receive the flu vaccine. Visit the HealthMap Vaccine Finder for locations near you that provide vaccinations.

Free flu shots for community members 3 years of age and older are available during the flu season at the City of Berkeley Public Health Clinic at 830 University Avenue. No appointment is needed during the following walk-in hours:

  • Mondays and Tuesdays from 9:00-11:00am
  • Thursdays from 2:30-4:00pm

Contact Berkeley Public Health at 981-5300 for more information, such as finding a vaccine provider for those between 6 months and 3 years of age.

Learn more about the flu from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health.



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