Additional Deaths Due To H1N1 Reported In LA

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The Los Angeles County Health Officer, Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, has confirmed a total of three deaths in the county due to the novel influenza A H1N1 virus ("swine flu"). All three deaths occurred in residents with pre-existing health conditions (underlying medical problems, and/or pregnancy) that place them at higher risk for complications of the flu. The most recent death occurred in a pregnant woman; influenza is known to cause severe complications in pregnant women and their fetuses. In this case, the baby survived.

"Our sympathy goes out to the families of the people that died. Influenza can be a deadly disease, especially in those with underlying health conditions. We are seeing an increase in novel flu A H1N1 cases this summer, a season when it is not usually expected, which means it is all the more important for everyone to take preventive measures," said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer. "In any season, the recommendations for avoiding illness are the same: wash your hands frequently, cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, and stay home if you are sick."

Many cases of flu and other respiratory illnesses can be prevented and easily treated by following simple recommendations:

# Wash your hands frequently. Use hand sanitizer when you cannot get to soap and water.

# Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

# Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes.

# Stay home from work, school, or summer camp if you or your child has flu-like symptoms such as fever, body aches and pains, coughing, fatigue, or sore throat. Do not return to work or school until one to two days after the fever has ended. This will help prevent the spread of illness to others.

# If you have a planned vacation and you are sick, it is advised that you avoid travel publicly (bus, train, plane, etc) until you have recovered.

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When to call your doctor: "Most people with flu-like symptoms do not need to visit the doctor; they can care for themselves effectively at home. Those with chronic, underlying health conditions should call their doctor to see if they should come in for a face-to-face visit," said Dr. Fielding.

If you are sick with flu-like symptoms, you should care for yourself the same way you would with any illness:

# Stay home and rest.

# Drink plenty of fluids.

# Take over-the-counter pain relievers for fever and aches; avoid products containing aspirin.

# Prevent spreading illness to others by washing your hands frequently and avoiding close contact to others.

Flu or Cold: "Flu-like symptoms can describe a number of different upper respiratory illnesses. A cold will produce a runny nose, possibly a cough or sore throat, and a low-grade fever, typically below 100U F. Influenza is marked by similar symptoms, but fever is generally higher, typically well above 100U F, the cough does not produce phlegm, and body aches and pains tend to be severe," said Dr. Fielding. Residents who are concerned about their symptoms should call their doctor.

Allergies or Flu: Some upper respiratory illnesses may not be infectious at all, but may be allergies caused by exposure to pollen, dust, pet dander, or other agents. Allergies can cause runny nose and congestion, sneezing, itching, and red, watery eyes. Allergies do not cause fever, and are not contagious. Individuals should talk to their doctor about allergy medications and treatment.

Prescription medications: Medications such as Tamiflu or Relenza are not vaccines. These medications are reserved for treating individuals who have been hospitalized with severe illness. Tamiflu or Relenza should not be taken without the advice of a doctor. Medications do not take the place of practicing good hygiene.

Vaccines: There is no vaccine yet for the new flu A H1N1. However everyone is encouraged to get vaccinated this fall to protect against regular, seasonal flu. Remember that the new flu A H1N1 is only one of several types of influenza virus that cause illness. Check the Public Health website at http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov starting in the fall for information on how to receive a free or low-cost injection or FluMistĀ® nasal spray vaccine. We anticipate that there will be vaccine available against novel influenza A H1N1 later this fall. Vaccine will be distributed to priority groups, including pregnant women.

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