Influenza fatalities escalate
Sneezing, sniffling and coughing - these activities greet students at Contra Costa College at the beginning of every year, to herald the dreaded influenza, or flu, season.
This season, however, looks like it may be a much more dangerous flu season than any in recent memory.
On Friday Director of the California Department of Public Health Ron Chapman announced that since October, the official beginning of the flu season, 147 people in California have died because of the flu, and another 44 cases are under investigation.
Specifically, this season and the deaths associated with it are due to the return of the H1N1 strain of the influenza virus, more commonly known as swine flu.
Every week during the flu season, the Center for Disease Control releases a report on how large every year's flu outbreak is. The flu's prevalence in California is ranked "widespread" by the CDC's website.
CCC Nursing Director Marshall Alameida said, "People can't take lightly how quickly it (the flu) can spread, or how serious it can be."
Dr. Alameida said it is frightening how many people have died because of the flu.
According to CDC officials, someone who is coughing and sneezing can transmit the virus to anyone within 6 feet of them.
Despite how infectious and easily spread the flu virus is, there are steps people can take to arm themselves against the flu.
"Hand washing is the number one factor in not transmitting the flu," Alameida said. "We would be so much better off if people regularly, and diligently, washed their hands."
Alameida went on to say that if a student, staff or faculty member is exhibiting signs of the flu, then that person should stay home and take at least one day off from work and school.
Vaccines against this season's strain of the flu virus are also readily available. Officials in the CDC and CDPH urge people to go to their local pharmacy to be vaccinated against the flu. Though the vaccine is not a guarantee that one will not contract the flu, it can be a big step in helping prevent the spread of it.
The website WebMD.com urges people to stay hydrated if they have the flu. The website details that water, non-citrus-based fruit juices, decaffeinated teas and milk can help people stay hydrated.
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