Flu season kicked off months ago, but with flu activity expected to peak in February, officials urge those who are not yet vaccinated to act quickly.
Since October, when flu season began, to now, there have been 149 confirmed influenza cases in Pima County, down from the 292 cases confirmed at this time last year, state data show.
Across Arizona, the cumulative total for flu cases is up by 138 cases this season, but the increase is not seen as alarming, a state health services official said.
“We track our five-year averages, and our current season total is 375 cases lower within the five-year period,” said Jessica Rigler, branch chief for public health preparedness for the Arizona Department of Health Services.
As of last week, there were no reported pediatric deaths from influenza in Arizona. Last flu season, there were four pediatric deaths — three in Maricopa County and one in Pinal County.
“I think it is really important to note that it is not too late to get vaccinated,” Rigler said.
“The greatest amount of flu activity is toward the end of January and it peaks in February,” added Dr. Francisco Garcia, director of the Pima County Health Department.
The flu tends to hit the hardest on pregnant women, the young, the old and those with compromised immune systems, said Garcia. “These are the people who can die from it.”
He said the vaccine is important in protecting oneself and others from getting the flu.
“If you are sick, stay home. Wash your hands regularly and cover your cough. That applies to flu and non-flu illnesses,” said Garcia.
Flu viruses spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing, touching something with the flu virus on it, and in some cases through the air.
Hospitals are increasingly requiring their employees to get flu shots, and the federal government is encouraging all health-care workers to get vaccinated.
The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get the flu vaccine. In addition to visiting your doctor, you can get a flu shot at many pharmacies and health clinics by appointment or as a walk-in.
The county health department also provides vaccines for children and adults at its clinics. To find a clinic, go to tucne.ws/hne