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Flu cases spike in the SCV

Local health professionals say the increase is not unusual for this time of year

Posted: January 30, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 30, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Pharmacist Charles Koopman holds a vial of influenza vaccine at Saugus Drugs on Wednesday. Signal photo by Charlie Kaijo.

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It’s flu season once again and Santa Clarita Valley health care professionals say they have been kept busy with a spike in the number of cases this month.

Dr. Paulo Hernandez, general physician from Doctor’s Express, reported seeing 24 cases in January after seeing only three or four cases each month since the flu season began in September.

Hernandez said the spike in cases is not unusual for this time of the year.

“This year is worse than last year in terms of severity (of symptoms),” he said. “The rate of patients coming in for flu symptoms has remained about the same. It all just came at once in mid December.”

Sylvia West, a Facey Clinic representative, also said it’s typical that January sees a spike in influenza cases with the season starting in September when the company receives their vaccines.

Anticipating the spike in cases for January, the company gave out 7,000 more influenza vaccines than the previous year after seeing an increase in cases.

The California Influenza Surveillance Program, a collaborative effort between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the California Department of Public Health and other health agencies reported more than 4,500 cases of the flu statewide from Oct. 13 to Jan. 18.

They found the majority of cases cropping up in the middle of December and rising steadily through January, statewide.

“It seems it’s pretty steady compared to last year,” said Charles Koopman, a Saugus Drugs pharmacist. “Last year we had 165 people come in for Tamiflu (a flu medicine). This year we had 75 people come in.”

Koopman typically begins to see the flu season begin in October through November, running until March. So far, he said about 200 people have come in to receive flu shots.

“Before we were giving more shots, and now we’re giving more Tamiflu than shots,” he said. “A lot of those are people who didn’t get their flu shots.”

A number of factors guide the spike of people seeking the flu vaccine. Koopman typically administers around two vaccinations per day but has had days where he has given up to 12 vaccinations in a day. He said news reports about the flu are often a motivating factor for people to get the flu shot.

“When swine flu came out last year, I was giving the vaccine up to March and April,” he said.

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