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Officials see surge in county swine flu cases

Disease expert says hygiene important in fighting disease

Posted: July 8, 2009 7:00 p.m.
Updated: July 9, 2009 4:30 a.m.

Los Angeles County is experiencing an unexpected surge in swine flu cases this summer, according to county health officials on Wednesday.

“The whole nation has been seeing it in some parts,” said Laurene Mascola, chief of the L.A. County Acute Communicable Disease Control Unit. “That bottom line is this is a pandemic virus and in a sense, no one has immunity to it.”

“Usually flu viruses go away in the summer, but this summer we’re seeing more swine flu activity,” Mascola added.

Mascola said there is some evidence of protection for people born before 1957, which is why they’re seeing a brunt of swine flu activity in younger ages, under age 24. Besides a lack of immunity, Mascola said that “nothing is predictable with a pandemic virus.”

One pattern has emerged, however — swine flu deaths related to those with underlying health conditions.

The Department of Public Health has confirmed three deaths due to the H1N1 virus, or swine flu. All three deaths occurred in residents with pre-existing health conditions, either underlying medical problems or pregnancy, according to a county news release. A pregnant woman was the most recent victim.

“Our sympathy goes out to the families of the people that died,” said Jonathan E. Fielding, director of Public Health and health officer.

“Influenza can be a deadly disease, especially in those with underlying health conditions.”

Mascola said they are seeing outbreaks and individual cases in different parts of the county, not specific areas.

People need not to panic but they need to practice good hygiene, Mascola said.

The county urges residents to: wash hands frequently, cover your nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and stay home if you or your child has flu-like symptoms.

Those symptoms can include fever, body aches, pains, coughing, fatigue or sore throat. Those who are sick are encouraged to avoid public travel until recovery.



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