Flu season has begun; vaccinations available at county clinics

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in late December that the number of influenza cases in several southern states jumped dramatically recently and it was an early start for the flu season, which normally peaks later.

There have been no flu-related deaths in California. And Riverside County officials say influenza activity is at or below normal in the region, but it is expected to increase in the coming weeks and months. They stressed that getting vaccinated is one of the best ways of avoiding the flu.

Based on increased levels of influenza-like illness and laboratory detections, overall influenza activity in illness and laboratory detections, and overall influenza activity in California through the end of 2012 was upgraded to “regional.”

“The flu shot is one of the most effective public health measures we have. It only takes a few moments but can be so beneficial to one’s health,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County interim public health officer. “There are so many places where shots can be obtained that access to the vaccine should not be an issue.”

The vaccine that has been widely distributed appears to be a match for the influenza strain that health officials are seeing, meaning the flu shot should be effective.

Riverside County health officials recommend annual vaccinations for all people age 6 months and older, regardless of risk group. Some children younger than age 9 will need two doses of seasonal flu vaccine this season

Generally vaccination should begin as soon as the vaccine is available with special emphasis on people with conditions that put them at increased risk for complications from influenza.

Specifically, annual flu shots are recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months, but are especially important for:

  • Pregnant women;
  • Children younger than 5 years;
  • People 50 years and older;
  • People of any age with chronic medical conditions;
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long-term facilities;
  • Health care workers, household contacts and home caregivers for high-risk individuals

Flu clinics are scheduled at the county’s 10 Family Care Centers. Flu clinic hours are 8 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. Appointments can be made by calling (800) 720-9553.

The three clinics closest to Idyllwild are in Hemet, Banning and Palm Springs:

  • Hemet Family Care Center, 880 N. State St., Hemet CA 92543. The clinic phone number is (951) 766-2450.
  • Banning Family Care Center, 3055 W. Ramsey, Banning, CA 92220. The clinic phone number is (951) 849-6794.
  • Palm Springs Family Care Center, 1515 North Sunrise Way, Palm Springs, CA 92262. The clinic phone number is (760) 778-2210.

For all clinic locations, call (800) 720-9553 or visit www.rivcofamilycarecenters.org/flu.htm.
Tens of thousands of flu shots are given each year in Riverside County and more than 112 million people have been vaccinated nationally so far, according to the CDC. Nationally, thousands of people die each year during the flu season and hundreds of thousands are hospitalized.

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