Deadly flu virus hits Bay area, experts want you to get the flu vaccine

Virus targets different people than seasonal flu

TAMPA, Fla. - The latest Florida map shows 42 counties reporting mild influenza activity, including Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Polk. Mild activity refers to the number of cases not the intensity of the illness.

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When asking many of you through my Facebook page what you're experiencing right now, you've described painful, long-lasting symptoms that have literally knocked you off your feet. Experts told me that is exactly what the H-1-N-1 virus can do to you.  

My Facebook followers paint a painful picture.

Ana Marie says, "The pain is excruciatingly intense as well as high fevers. We were coughing up blood as well."

Patricia says her nephew has "been sick in bed for over a week."

Cindy tells me she thought she was dying with "fever, aches, coughs, throwing up...."

"What we're seeing this year is the return of the H1N1 as our predominant strain. This really has not been the predominant strain since 2009,"  said Warren McDougle, Epidemiology Manager for the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County. He says that's important because H1N1 affects different people than the normal seasonal flu. Pregnant women are at high risk. "There's been one recorded death of a pregnant female. The other pregnant females who have it are in the hospital and under emergency care," said McDougle.

H1N1 also attacks people in their late 40's and 50's who are normally healthy. It also affects the very young.  The elderly don't seem to have as much of a problem with it. Some of you have asked me what the symptoms are. According to McDougle, "The things you want to be on the lookout for are fever, headache which is unusual for a normal cold. This is the difference, the aches and the pains."

What has changed since 2009?  He says, "Now we can protect ourselves against H1N1 because it is included in this year's immunization."

And it's not too late to get the flu vaccine. The peak of the flu season isn't until the beginning of February. "We're really stressing for people who normally think they do not need to get the flu shot,  this is the year you need to get it because this flu attacks a different group of people."

Many providers are now paying for flu shots this year. McDougal says Medicaid is even  paying for the shot for pregnant women.

A flu test will tell you whether or not you have the flu and antivirals will assist in your recovery.

But your best bet is to get a vaccine and protect yourself now.  We're taking action for you with information on where you can go.  If you go to www.flu.gov and click on vaccinations, then scroll down to "where can I get the vaccine", enter your zip code and you'll find the places closest to you.

For more information:  

http://www.flu.gov/prevention-vaccination/vaccination/index.html

www.flu.gov.com

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