Flu Season Could Be Severe, Says Marin General Hospital's Infectious Disease Medical Director

GREENBRAE, CA — This year’s flu season is shaping up to be especially severe, according to Dr. Gregg Tolliver, an infectious disease specialist who serves as medical director of infection control at Marin General Hospital. What makes it particularly worrisome is that this year’s predominant strain is H1N1, also known as “Swine Flu”, a variety known to cause fatal cases of pneumonia in even young and healthy patients.

“In Marin, we’ve already seen two deaths of patients under 64 with two or three months left in the season,” says Dr. Tolliver. “Marin healthcare providers have reported 127 positive tests for influenza, and of those that were sub typed, more than 90% were H1N1. The state health department has confirmed almost 50 flu-related deaths with another 50 deaths that are likely due to the flu. That compares with just 106 deaths recorded last year for the entire flu season, and just five flu-related deaths at this point in the season.”

“Although some shortages have been reported, we know the vaccine is still available, and it is strongly advised that you get vaccinated if possible,” Dr. Tolliver says. “Everyone over the age of six months should get a flu shot.”

Dr. Tolliver suggested several other “common sense” precautions:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water, or an alcohol-based rub if soap and water are not available. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth, which spreads germs.
  • Disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated.
  • If experiencing flu-like symptoms, stay home at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (without the use of fever-reducing medicines) except to get medical care or for other necessities.
  • Limit contact with others as much as possible while sick. You’re not doing your colleagues any favors by spreading flu to your workplace.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and dispose of the tissue in the trash after use.
  • If your flu-like symptoms continue to get worse, seek immediate medical care.  Swine flu is deadly, and getting treated could prevent tragedy.

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