Despite Warm Temperatures, Louisiana Confirms First Flu Case

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Although Valley temperatures continue to loom into the mid 80's this week, the flu is right on schedule. Today, the Arizona Department of Health Services confirms the state’s first case of influenza, officially kicking off the 2008-2009 flu season. The patient is an infant from Maricopa County who is now recovering at home.

"We usually expect to see our first case right around Thanksgiving, so this comes as no surprise," said Will Humble, ADHS Deputy Director. "The good news is that Arizona usually sees its majority of cases in February. Today is the perfect wake up call that it is definitely time to get immunized against the flu."

Influenza, along with its complications, is a serious respiratory illness. On average 36,000 people die and about 226,000 people are hospitalized in the United States every year. Last year, Maricopa County reported 2,913 lab confirmed cases of influenza and 5,168 were confirmed statewide. However, this number is far less than the actual number of flu cases since the vast majority are not diagnosed and reported.

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Annual influenza vaccination is recommended for more than 250 million people in the U.S., yet vaccination rates remain alarmingly low, leaving many unprotected and at risk for influenza infection each year.

"Flu vaccine is almost recommended for our entire population," said Dr. Bob England, director of Maricopa County Department of Public Health. "Whether you are a child, older adult, immune compromised or come into contact with any of the three, you should seriously consider getting the shot or nasal spray. No one wants to unknowingly bring the flu home to Grandma over Thanksgiving when a simple vaccine offers protection for everyone."

In addition to getting a flu shot or flu nasal mist, other healthy habits that will protect you from illness this season include avoiding close contact with those who are sick, staying home when you are sick, covering your mouth and nose, cleaning your hands frequently, avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth, and eating nutritious food.

"It is important to teach our kids at an early age to wash their hands with soap and water and to sneeze into their arms rather than hands. Increasing hand washing alone could help the health of our entire community against a host of diseases," said Dr. Karen Lewis Immunization Program Medical Director "This year, the flu message is the same as years before -- get your flu vaccine, wash your hands frequently and please, please please, stay home if you are sick."

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