Flu shots urged as H1N1 strain emerges in SLO County(CA.)

Thursday, January 2, 2014
By Paul Martin

December 31, 2013

County, state and federal public health officials are urging people to get a flu shot if they haven’t done so already, to protect against a form of the H1N1 virus that caused a worldwide pandemic in 2009.

The H1N1 outbreak in 2009 killed at least 553 Californians, including three people in San Luis Obispo County, according to state records.

“If you have gotten a flu shot, good. If you haven’t, get one,” advised Dr. Jim Beebe, lab director for the County of San Luis Obispo Public Health Laboratory.

The strain of virus known as influenza A pH1N1 is the predominant strain circulating this year nationwide, health officials said. The strain is a slight variation on the 2009 H1N1 virus and can cause severe illness to people of all ages, but is unusual in that it hits children and healthy young adults harder, health officials said.

So far, flu cases in California have been localized, rather than widespread, according to data collected by the state up to Dec. 14.

In San Luis Obispo County, 49 of the 50 flu samples tested so far have been influenza A pH1N1, Beebe said. The county lab has been soliciting samples from local urgent care centers, clinics and hospitals.

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