La Cañada area not hit hard by flu season

Despite grim statistics released Friday by the California Department of Public Health that show a spike this year in flu-related deaths, local health officials say all seems to be well throughout the community and in the La Cañada schools.

The state report said the number of confirmed flu-related deaths across California had risen to 202 so far, nearly double last year's total of 106. Area health figures confirm that Los Angeles County accounts for 33 of those fatalities. Officials in the Foothills say that those who do fall ill here are receiving immediate and appropriate treatment.

Visits to USC-Verdugo Hills Hospital's emergency room increased about 16% from December to January, with a significant number of visitors reporting flu-like symptoms, according to a spokeswoman.

La Cañada Unified School District nurse Danielle Chandler, who trains and supervises health clerks at each school site, said Monday most staff members received their flu shots in October in advance of the season's peak months of December and January.

Additionally, the district invited students to get vaccinated during a clinic hosted in partnership with Flintridge Pharmacy and sent email notices to families, which featured a chock-full of prevention tips. So far, the measures have been successful.

"We haven't really seen anything alarming this year," Chandler said. "I think we're a little bit behind the trend at this point, but we have seen a rise (in illnesses) in general."

Vaccinations vary from year to year as the World Health Organization determines which strains are most prevalent. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reports that, since the H1N1 pandemic of 2009, obesity has been identified as a stand-alone risk for flu-related death and complications of the disease.

"Currently, the county has been receiving reports of hospitalizations and even death in obese and overweight adults with no additional health conditions," the agency stated in its Jan. 31 "Influenza Watch" surveillance report.

Linda Greenwood, USC-Verdugo Hills Hospital's director of infection prevention and employee health services, confirmed hospital workers were seeing some of the same high-risk groups affected during the H1N1 pandemic come in for treatment this year.

To combat the flu, she advised a fairly simple and effective regimen.

"Wash your hands, cover your cough and stay home if you're sick," Greenwood said. "But first of all, get your flu shot — it's never too late to get your flu shot."


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