Flu season arrives early on the North Coast

EUREKA – Flu season is sweeping across the country and the North Coast is not immune.
Influenza, more commonly referred to as flu, is a virus that’s transmitted through water droplets expelled when those infected cough or sneeze. The Centers for Disease Control says the virus can live on surfaces for up to 24 hours.
Some symptoms include fever, aches, diarrhea and vomiting. Severe cases can be fatal.
If you’ve contracted the virus, clean hands regularly, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and avoid sharing germs.
Prevention is the best medicine. Health officials urge everyone six months or older to get vaccinated. Doctors say it can protect you now and in the future.
St. Joseph Hospital Infection Control Officer Henry Beneda said, “The vaccine covers four strains of the flu and even if that strain doesn’t come around this year and it comes around next year you may have some protection that carries over year to year. So we have what’s called cross immunity so getting your vaccine every year it may prepare you for the pandemic that you don’t know that’s coming down the road. In a world pandemic there may not be vaccine, so it’s kind of like storage or a savings account. If you get it every year you may have a little cross immunity.”
And the flu is having a big impact on local hospitals and emergency rooms.
Diana Yandell, St. Joseph Hospital Emergency Physician & Chief of Medicine, said, “I’ve worked here five years now and I think this may be the season that I’ve seen the most patients test positive for flu and that’s just the patients we’re actually testing.”
St. Joseph Hospital says the number of cases is so high they’re running low on test kits.
In fact, the emergency room has seen two to three times the number of cases of a typical flu season, and it’s ramped up earlier than previous years.
Staff says they anticipated this year would be severe, so the hospital brought in additional nurses to cover the increased patient load in both Eureka and Fortuna.
But medical professionals say the emergency room isn’t always the best option. Rest and drinking plenty of fluids will help most people combat the illness.