South Shore sees few flu cases so far

Griffin Rogers

It’s the beginning of flu season in El Dorado County, but there has been little sign of the virus at Barton Memorial Hospital, health officials said Tuesday.

The hospital’s emergency department has not seen any positive flu cases this season, Marketing Specialist Angela Moniot said.

Barton Urgent Care Family Practice in Stateline has seen about six cases of flu so far, but the number is typical this time of year, Nurse Practitioner Michelle Feeney said.

“It’s still early in the flu season,” she said.

Influenza viruses usually hit their peak in the community around January or February, Feeney said. While several cases have already been reported, most have been flu B — one of three different types of flu viruses.

According to the Center for Disease Control, flu A and flu B are the two types of viruses that cause influenza epidemics each winter. Flu C can cause mild respiratory illnesses, but is not believed to cause epidemics.

Feeney said the B-type flu is typically considered to be less threatening than type A.

“With the prominence of seeing flu B now, which we usually see later in the year,” she said, “I think it’s a good sign that we are seeing more of the mild flu now.

County officials are tracking the flu as it spreads throughout the region, said Kristine Oase Guth, manager of the El Dorado County Health and Human Services Agency, Public Health Preparedness unit. But the virus is sporadic.

At this point in the season, it’s too early to pinpoint hotspots in the county, she said.

Additionally, Epidemiologist Olivia Byron-Cooper said signs of the flu spreading in November are not cause for alarm.

“We’re pretty much exactly like we were in the previous years since I’ve been here,” she said, “and I’ve been here five years.”

In the past five years, the flu has contributed to the death of one person in the county, Byron-Cooper said. That occurred in 2009, when a new flu A virus — also known as H1N1 — emerged.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the new flu A virus was different from regular flu A viruses and caused the first influenza pandemic in more than 40 years.

To prevent getting the flu, Feeney has a number of suggestions. She recommends that people cover their mouths when coughing, avoid being around those sick with the flu when possible and stay clear of touching their eyes and nose.

If sick, Feeney suggests staying at home.

“Bottom line,” she said, “ wash your hands and get your flu shots.”

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