Do you have a tickle in your throat? Is someone nearby sneezing? What you may be noticing are not a run-of-the-mill cold, but the first symptoms of the flu.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is offering free flu vaccinations at its public health centers throughout Los Angeles County, with no appointment necessary, and many local community clinics and pharmacies in the Second Supervisorial District and across the county are offering seasonal flu vaccines for a low fee.
County Department of Public Health Director Dr. Jonathon E. Fielding urges flu vaccinations as soon as possible for all adults and children above six months of age. Flu strains change every year, making it important to get vaccinated once a year. There are two ways to be vaccinated, either through the influenza shot or nasal spray. In order to be protected from the flu with the nasal spray, one has to be a healthy non-pregnant individual between the ages 2-49.
While all people can contract influenza, medical research shows that some age groups are at greater risk of developing complications. Children under age five and adults above 50 years of age have been shown to have a greater risk of complications, studies say. Pregnancy, a compromised immune system and chronic medical conditions can also increase the risk of complications from the flu.
“Health is our priority,” says Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who encourages appropriate steps to prevention.
The common flu is highly contagious and effective ways to protect yourself and your loved ones include covering your mouth when sneezing and washing your hands before eating and after using the restroom. Additionally, if flu-like symptoms appear it is recommended that you drink fluids, stay home at least 24 hours and use over-the-counter medications.
This year has been particularly difficult; according to California state health officials, there have been 202 confirmed influenza deaths in individuals below age 65, including 26 deaths in Los Angeles County alone. In fact, this flu season is responsible for more deaths than any season in recent years. At this time in 2013, only 18 Californians below the age of 65 had died from the flu and only 106 people had died for the entire 2012-2013 season.
Click here, to find locations where flu vaccinations are currently available or call the LA County Information Line at 2-1-1 from any landline or cell phone in the county.
For health education materials including kid-friendly handouts, click here.