What: Free flu vaccine clinic, sponsored by the Yolo County Health Department
When: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25
Where: Lee Middle School, 520 West St., Woodland
Also: Flu shots also are available for $10 at the Health Department’s regular Monday immunization clinics from 2 to 6 p.m. at 137 N. Cottonwood St. in Woodland. No appointments are necessary
Multiple counties throughout Northern California have reported influenza deaths this week involving people under the age of 65 — including one in Solano County on Tuesday and five in Sacramento County — but no flu deaths have been reported in Yolo County thus far.
Yolo County’s health officer, Dr. Constance Caldwell, did report Tuesday that an individual under the age of 65 had been admitted to an intensive care unit for influenza, but citing patient privacy, provided no additional details.
Neither the county nor the state track individual cases of influenza, only deaths in those under the age of 65 as well as those being treated in an ICU, said Yolo County spokeswoman Beth Gabor. However, she said, there is “general seasonal flu activity in Yolo County as seen throughout the state.”
“The predominant strain this year appears to be pH1N1, which disproportionally affects those under 65 and those who are generally healthy,” Gabor said, “unlike the typical seasonal flu which seems to target the elderly, very young and frail.”
pH1N1 was dubbed the “swine flu” when it first appeared in 2009 and has been circulating worldwide as a seasonal flu virus ever since, according to the Centers for Disease Control. During that 2009 pandemic, the CDC reported, “younger adults and children, and particularly people with chronic medical conditions and pregnant women, were harder hit by pH1N1 compared with adults aged 65 and older.”
Fear was so great back in the spring of 2009 — particularly before a vaccine was developed — that the report of a possible case in a Holmes Junior High School student had the county recommending the school’s closure, until further investigation revealed the student did not have the swine flu.
This year’s influenza vaccine does include protection against the pH1N1 strain, which is why health officials are urging anyone who has not yet been vaccinated, to do so, particularly since the flu season does not yet appear to have peaked.
“California is seeing an accelerated increase in flu activity over the past few weeks,” Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, said Friday.
Chapman said California had seven confirmed influenza deaths of people under the age of 65 in the last reporting period, and was investigating an additional 28 more deaths. But given recent reports out of the Bay Area of as many as 17 influenza deaths in the last week alone, it’s expected that updated statewide numbers being released Friday will be significantly higher.
While some of those Bay Area cases reportedly involved individuals with underlying health conditions, others involve healthy young people, including a 23-year-old Sonoma County man who officials said had no underlying health problems.
Chapman’s office also reported last week that there currently are more influenza hospitalizations at this point in the season than would normally be expected, and the Centers for Disease Control reported that people ages 18 to 64 account for 61 percent of the reported hospitalized cases nationwide.
“The best defense against the flu is getting vaccinated,” Chapman said. “This year’s vaccine is an excellent match against this year’s influenza strains. There is no shortage of vaccine in California and it is not too late to get vaccinated.
“Our flu season may not peak for several more weeks, so I encourage everyone to get vaccinated,” he added.
Vaccination is recommended for everyone over 6 months of age and particularly important for those at higher risk of severe influenza, including pregnant women and those with underlying medical conditions.
Like Chapman, Yolo County’s Caldwell said there is no local flu vaccine shortage, though some pharmacies may be running low because they order months ahead of time and may or may not be willing to order more.
Indeed, over the past week, a number of local pharmacies, including Target and CVS, reported running out of flu shots at one point or another, but all had ordered more and had them in stock this week.
Additionally, the county Health Department offers regular flu shot clinics every Monday, though there will not be a clinic Monday, Jan. 20, because of the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday.
Clinics are held on the first Monday of the month at 500B Jefferson Blvd. in West Sacramento and the second, third and fourth Mondays of the month at 137 N. Cottonwood St. in Woodland. All of the clinics are from 2 to 5 p.m.
About 35 people showed up for flu shots at last Monday’s clinic, and while the charge is $10 per vaccine, “we will not turn anyone away who is unable to pay,” Gabor said.
Gabor added that the county Health Department is currently working to schedule additional flu clinics in other locations in the next week or two, but also reminded residents that health care providers and pharmacies are options as well.
And while there is no flu vaccine shortage, there is a nationwide manufacturer shortage of pediatric liquid Tamiflu, an antiviral medication taken to reduce the severity of the flu.
The shortage is due to manufacturing problems and not necessarily increasing demand, according to Caldwell, who added that the shortage “seems to happen every year.”
Caldwell said pharmacies can compound the liquid pediatric Tamiflu from adult Tamiflu capsules and the manufacturer’s package insert contains instructions on how to do that.
While it’s not a difficult process, Caldwell said not all pharmacies are willing to compound anymore because they are often not reimbursed for the associated costs of flavoring for the suspension and pharmacist time.
In any case, the shortage is expected to end within the next week or so, according to the federal Food and Drug Administration.
Meanwhile, schools in Davis are not seeing a significant increase in flu activity, according to Laura Juanitas, director of student support services for the district.
“We have not seen a difference in students being out for the flu from last year to this year,” Juanitas reported Tuesday. “We also aren’t seeing an excessive number of absences due to the flu.”
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy