COUNTYWIDE — The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has received a report of an influenza A (H1N1)-associated death of a pregnant woman and her unborn baby from the South Bay area. Although influenza activity in Los Angeles County has been on the decline, it is still widespread and will continue at least through March, public health officials said this week.

The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone, six months of age or older, including pregnant women at any stage of their pregnancy. Pregnant and postpartum women are more likely than others to have severe illness from flu, officials said.

“This sad event demonstrates that serious complications can occur with flu infection in pregnant women,” said Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, the county’s director of public health. “Therefore, it is critical that all pregnant and postpartum women get vaccinated to protect themselves against the flu. We recommend that everyone …  practice basic hygiene, such as hand washing and covering coughs and sneezes, to prevent the spread of influenza and other respiratory diseases.”

For pregnant women with flu-like illness, immediate treatment with anti-viral medication is recommended even before influenza testing is confirmed. Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, headache, and muscle ache within the first three to five days of illness. Because immunity from flu vaccination declines over time and the strains of the flu virus can change from year to year, it is important to get vaccinated annually.

Influenza accounts for up to 220,000 hospitalizations, and an average of 24,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In L.A. County, a total of 52 confirmed deaths due to influenza among men, women, and children of all ages have been reported as of Feb. 20. Influenza vaccine remains available as are anti-virals. Residents are encouraged to contact their regular doctor or health plan for information on where and when they can get a flu vaccine. Many local community clinics and pharmacies are offering seasonal flu vaccine for a low fee.

To find locations where flu vaccinations are currently available visit www.ph.lacounty.gov/ip/flu/FluLocatorMain.htm or call the county Information Line at 2-1-1 from any landline or cell phone in the county.

 

— Kevin Herrera

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