State health officials are now involved in outbreaks in local schools

State health officials are now involved in outbreaks in local schools

San Diego County Health and Human Services says it is now working with the state health department to respond to the outbreak of influenza-like symptoms at Patrick Henry and Del Mar high schools this week.

Dr. Cameron Kaiser, deputy county public health officer, said about 40% of students at those universities stayed home on Wednesday, the last day he had data. Some of the students’ initial tests were positive for influenza A.

“It’s important to note, however, that the state is really involved in this,” Kaiser said. “We’ve definitely reported it to them. I’m sure they’re discussing it with their federal partners.” “Right now, though, this is happening against a baseline of something we’ve been expecting to happen, which is why we want people to be prepared.”

Kaiser cautioned that the current outbreak is not limited to these high schools, but said that school outbreaks have been more visible because officials are monitoring attendance.

“If you’re going to see a large number of sick people in a geographic area, you tend to see them hit the schools first,” he said, “not because they don’t happen in other places, but those are simply keeping the closest tabs to the stats.”

The county says the flu is already spreading quickly in the community, and it will only get worse. So officials are urging everyone to get a flu shot β€” especially those most at risk.

“Across the county, we’re seeing a significant number of flu cases on some of the biggest counts we saw in October,” Kaiser said. β€œIt’s important for people to realize that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck, and we already predicted it’s going to be bad flu season. And everything clicks into place.”

Dr. Theresa Hardesty, a pediatrician at Sharp Rees-Stealy, told KPBS that influenza A is particularly severe. She said that after two years of pandemic precautions, not everyone’s immune system is ready for this.

“The population’s natural immunity has gone down, and the flu hasn’t spread very much,” Hardesty said. “So people come in with a high fever, a serious cough, a feeling of pain, and a low fever. Usually with influenza the fever lasts for four or five days, and it can be as high as 104 or 105, so people feel very uncomfortable.”

Hardesty said the flu shot gave the body “advance warning,” so if someone had the flu, they had a milder condition.

“[The flu] It rages in the community, so I think if you can reduce the level of illness by getting vaccinated beforehand, I think that’s a very important way to protect yourself and reduce the chance of spreading influenza A to someone else who may have lower natural immunity,” Hardesty said.

She said she has seen the worst cases in medically impaired children, children under the age of 1, children with asthma and other conditions. She urges parents to vaccinate children if they are elderly. “I recommend extra caution when exposure in large indoor groups,” she said [and] in societies where the disease is currently prevalent.”

When that’s not possible, she said masking was possible for older children, and she advised parents to talk to their doctors about medications that could protect their children.

For patients, she said, plenty of rest and healthy foods are key to improvement.

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