Swine Flu is Back
By Alex Distefano
Gather up the tissues, a cup of tea and a bowl of grandma’s chicken soup, because the dreaded flu season has reared its ugly head once again and many people are sick, or are taking care of someone sick.
According to Riverside County health officials, the flu virus took the life of a man from the Coachella Valley area. The Weekly was in contact with Riverside County Department of Health, to confirm news reports from the Press Enterprise, NBC 4 and others that an unnamed 30-year-old man lost his life to the virus, which was verified as the H1N1 strain, or ‘swine flu.’
Some news outlets are reporting that there is a rise in reported cases of ‘swine flu.’ So far, there have been around a dozen deaths up North near the San Jose/San Francisco Bay area, and last week, a 28-year-old woman died over a week ago in Orange County due to complications from the flu. Reports also have cases of ‘swine flu’ deaths in Kern County.
But, Barbara Cole, Director of Disease Control for the Riverside County Department of Health, said that this is no reason for people to panic. She told the Weekly that the man from Coachella Valley died at a local hospital last week, but that results from certain tests are not back yet. “We are still gathering information so we don’t know if the person was vaccinated or had any other underlying health issues,” she said.
“This H1N1 virus is the 2009 H1N1 strain that is part of the normal flu season. In Riverside County, the levels of influenza infections are normal for what we would expect at this time of year,” Cole said. The virus was responsible for global havoc and massive panic in 2009, but turned out to be only slightly worse than a normal flu season.
Many people have come down with a strain of flu that brings along a rather nasty stomach bugs. Symptoms of normal influenza include body aches, cough, nasal congestion, head ache fatigue and fever. But, the stomach flu can also mean cramps, vomiting or diarrhea.
Cole stressed however, that people should not assume they have the flu if they only have stomach symptoms. “The only way to know for sure is through getting seen by a doctor, and getting tested,” she said. “Without testing it’s hard to say if it might be a flu, or it could be another virus or something else.”
Cole said that this flu-related death is Riverside County’s first of this season. But she doesn’t, at this time, foresee things to get worse and said that within a month or two things should get better. “For Riverside County, toward the end of February to March, we see the influenza activity cases diminish, we may get a few cases but by March it tends to wind down,” she said.
Cole said the best things people can do to help stop the spread of infections are obvious: get plenty of rest, keep hydrated, and above all stay home from work/ keep children home from school when sick. Further she added the county’s stance on the flu shot.” At this time we recommend everyone over six months to get the flu vaccination, it is not too late. We urge people to get vaccinated against these viruses.”