Keep hanky on hand – flu season is here |

Keep hanky on hand – flu season is here

Gregory Crofton, Tribune staff writer

Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily Tribune The flu is hitting the South Shore early and hard.

The flu this year is packing a punch, one that’s coming earlier than usual and landing squarely in the chests of young children.

“Within the last two weeks a lot of people have been coming in (to the emergency room) daily with the flu, especially little kids,” said Aimee Morales, spokeswoman for Barton Memorial Hospital.

Fevers over 100 degrees, aching muscles, respiratory problems and a cough are signs of the virus, which has been sticking around for as long as two weeks.

Typically those symptoms don’t usually surface until January or February. This season they showed up in force in Northern Nevada and on the South Shore about two weeks ago.

“What we’re seeing is Influenza A,” said Doris Dimmitt, infection control specialist at the Carson-Tahoe Hospital. “One of the things that’s happening is that Influenza A in the vaccine is only providing partial protection because the virus has mutated.”

Even if someone has had their flu shot, they could still come down with the flu. But the shot will help prevent the case from becoming severe, health officials say.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that influenza is widespread in Nevada, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Nebraska, Texas, Missouri, Tennessee and Pennsylvania. Regional outbreaks have been reported in states such as Colorado, where the deaths of four children have been attributed to the virus.

El Dorado County Public Health Department on Monday opened its flu shot program to all ages. If demand increases, the department will organize a flu clinic. Right now an appointment is required to get a shot. Shots take about two weeks to take effect.

“It’s going to be a severe year by all accounts,” said Allyson Tabor, county public health nurse in South Lake Tahoe. “So we want to make sure we give out as many as possible.”

South Tahoe High and South Tahoe Middle schools reported a large number of student absences on Monday. Washoe County School District has also reported an increase in sick days.

“I’ve been here 23 years doing this,” said Pam Young, a Washoe County epidemiologist. “This is the first time I’ve seen this type of activity in November. In years past, we saw activity in December and thought it was early.”

Douglas County does not administer flu shots. But a county nurse recommended those in need go to the Carson-Tahoe Hospital clinic on Thursday at the Carson Mall from 2 to 6 p.m.

Barton Memorial Hospital will also host a flu shot clinic Dec. 8 in the Board Room of the hospital. For more information, call (530) 542-3000, ext. 3380. To schedule a flu shot appointment with the El Dorado County Public Health Department, call (530) 573-3155.

– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at