California was upgraded to a widespread alert for flu on Friday, March 27, making it one of 24 states showing the highest level of flu activity, according to a surveillance report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC continued to list the state in its widespread alert category in its April 3 report.Beverly Hills internal medicine specialist David Ramin, M.D., who is on staff at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, says that this year’s outbreak has persisted later into the season than is usual, and that California is having an active outbreak now, which prompted the CDC announcement.He does not recommend anyone getting the flu vaccine at this time since it is so late in the season. The flu season generally runs from late October until January or February, said Dr. Ramin, but it sometimes extends longer, and he noted that it ran into May a few years ago.An estimated 100 million Americans are at high risk of serious complications from influenza, including: people 50 years of age and older; people with chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, and heart disease; and children six months to 18 years of age.In order to avoid the flu at this time, Dr. Ramin recommends frequent hand-washing, avoiding being around sick people, and consulting a physician for antiviral medication within 48 hours of the appearance of flu symptoms. Those symptoms include high fever, body aches, sore throat, runny nose, and chest congestion, said Dr. Ramin.Nurse epidemiologist Geri Braddock at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center said that she has not seen a widespread increase in flu cases this year, but she did note that she is seeing flu cases later in the season than is usual. She also does not recommend getting the flu vaccine at this time, but echoes Dr. Ramin’s advice about frequent hand-washing and adds that covering one’s coughs and immediate disposal of paper tissues will help prevent the spread of the flu.Seasonal flu is responsible for more than 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths annually – more than from breast cancer or HIV.
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