Influenza activity in Napa County has begun earlier than usual and is running ahead of the levels of a year ago, the county Health and Human Services Agency reports.
Data from Queen of the Valley Medical Center indicates that 172 patients have been admitted since September with flu-like illnesses, compared to 128 at the same point in January 2019, according to Dr. Karen Relucio, county public health officer. The increase was greater for patients 24 and younger – up from 61 to 92 – than for other patients, she said Tuesday afternoon.
Influenza has caused one death in Napa County this winter season, of a resident older than 65 who died about three weeks ago, according to Relucio. However, a local juvenile who was reported to have succumbed to flu last week actually died from an unrelated condition, she said.
Most of this season’s increase appears to be the result of a greater number of illnesses in the fall, rather than in January and February when cases normally escalate, according to Relucio.
“This year, flu activity became widespread really early in season,” she said. “The beginning of flu season is the end of September but by the end of November it was pretty widespread, which is pretty unusual.”
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“What heralded this activity was fact that in the Southern Hemisphere there was a prolonged flu over the winter in their hemisphere,” Relucio added. “It’s been a pretty high-activity year.
Global travel – when you have flu activity in Southern Hemisphere it’s pretty predictive of what’s to come here, she said.
Overall, the flu remains most deadly for the elderly. In California, 105 people have died of the flu so far this season, more than half of whom were older than 65, according to data released Friday by the state Department of Public Health.
Statewide, five children have died of the flu, according to state data. Nationwide, 39 children have died of the flu this season, according to federal data released Friday.
Though there was a spike in flu cases around the holidays, it’s impossible to know whether the flu season has peaked, health officials said. The flu season is considered to run from October through May and typically peaks in January or February.
Officials recommend the flu shot for anyone over 6 months old. Multiple viruses pop up during flu season, so people who have already gotten sick could still benefit from the protection of a flu shot.
“Just because we are sort of deep into flu season doesn’t mean people can’t still get the flu shot,” said Dr. Nicholas Testa, chief physician executive overseeing six Dignity Health hospitals in Southern California. “Even if it peaks this week, next week or in two weeks, that doesn’t mean it’s over.”
You can reach Howard Yune at 707-256-2214 or email@example.com.
Information from the Los Angeles Times was used in this report.