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

flu season started early

Berkeley, California (Wednesday, December 18, 2019) - 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 are particularly important now since influenza activity monitoring is showing that flu season started early. 

Public health officials in Berkeley and around the state recommend annual flu shots for everyone 6 months and older. Flu vaccine is even more important for those 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

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 you," said Dr. Lisa Hernandez, Berkeley's Health Officer. "And it also protects those around you-especially the most vulnerable.

People can get the flu at any time. To prevent infection, Berkeley Public Health recommends:

  • Get a flu shot every year
  • Avoid contact with those who are ill and stay home when you 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.

"The flu isn't merely a winter cold," said Dr. Sonia Angell, State Public Health Officer and director of the California Department of Public Health. "It is a serious, and very contagious virus that can be deadly. The flu is preventable, but a vaccination is needed every year to maintain the greatest protection."

Flu activity is widespread statewide, where there have been 24 flu deaths, including three children, since late September. Though there have been no flu-related deaths in Berkeley, cases have been on the rise and there has been a flu outbreak in a medical facility.

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

  • Stay home - 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 Ann Chandler Public Health Center at 830 University Avenue. No appointment is needed during the following walk-in hours:

  • Mondays and Tuesdays from 9:00-11:00 am and 1:00-4:00 pm
  • Thursdays from 10:00 am-12:00 pm and 2:00-4:30pm

Contact Berkeley Public Health at 981-5350 for more information, such as finding a vaccine provider for those between 6 months and 3 years of age.


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