Influenza continues to cause widespread illness in Pinal County

Pinal County has continued to receive reports of historically high numbers of influenza cases in the community.  So far, Pinal County has more than 1,000 cases reported this season, more than last year.  Currently there are eight recorded deaths related to flu.  The deaths are concentrated in members of the public over 50 years of age.

Approximately 25 percent of the reported cases have been hospitalized and multiple additional deaths have been identified.  “We have never seen this much flu activity this early in the season,” said Graham Briggs, manager for infectious diseases and epidemiology at Pinal County Public Health, “but it’s not too late to get your flu shot.”

While there have been some reports commenting on decreased efficacy of the vaccine this season Pinal County is still recommending it as the best way to prevent infection. Even a vaccine that is less than 100 percent effective in preventing the flu will still provide some immunity as well as decrease symptoms and risk of severe illness.

The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months receive vaccination each season.

Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness and can lead to hospitalization and death. The flu virus spreads when someone with influenza coughs, sneezes, or talks. You can also catch influenza by touching a surface or object that the virus lands on and then touching your face. People at higher risk for severe disease include those with asthma, diabetes, pregnant women, people that may be immune-compromised and adults over the age of 65.

Even if you are vaccinated, there are more ways to prevent the spread of influenza:

  • Wash your hands
  • Cover your cough
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Avoid touching your face

Most primary care providers as well as pharmacies and other medical providers offer flu shots.  Interested residents are also able to get influenza vaccination free of charge for all children under 18 years old, and at low or no cost for adults at Pinal County Public Health clinics.  The Pinal County Health Clinic in Apache Junction, 575 N. Idaho Road Suite No. 301, is open 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. The Pinal County Health Clinic in San Tan Valley, 36235 N. Gantzel Road, is open 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday.

For additional questions about influenza or to make an appointment at the Health Department for vaccine, call 520-866-6300 in Pinal County.

Editor’s note: Joe Pyritz is the spokesman for Pinal County.

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