Flu hits drastic levels

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By LENORE

RUTHERFORD

and CLAIRE ST. JOHN

The influenza epidemic has hit the foothills, Tuolumne County Public Health Officer Dr. Todd Stolp said this morning.

"We don't know how many people have influenza," he said, "but in the last 10 days, 50 percent of those tested for the disease at local hospitals have had it, and 20 percent of people going to emergency rooms have had flu-like symptoms."

He said in regions around the nation with the highest incidence of flu, only 14 percent of those going to emergency rooms have had flu-like symptoms during the same period. About 2.5 percent of the patients seen in emergency rooms have flu-like symptoms when there is no epidemic.

He said the Tuolumne County Health Department has given out more doses of flu vaccine this year than ever before, a total of 2,400. The department has run out of vaccine and is waiting to learn if more will be available.

About 50 people were turned away yesterday morning from a flu shot clinic at Save Mart on Mono Way when the Visiting Nurse Association ran out of vaccine, said flu clinic coordinator Jane Cowley.

"We had about 180 doses, and it was first-come, first-served," she said.

She said fliers were passed out at Save Mart about another flu clinic being offered Monday at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds by Sonora Community Hospital, which has about 400 doses available.

Many people who don't usually get flu shots are trying to get them now because of news accounts nationwide about flu outbreaks, and the especially virulent form of flu that is hitting, said Colleen Tracy, Calaveras County director of public health.

Kathy Amos, Tuolumne County Health Department's director of public nursing, said there is an unexpected Fujian strain of influenza in the United States right now, and it is not part of the vaccine.

However, the Fujian strain is a slight mutation of the Panama strain, which is in the vaccine, she said.

11517046
The Union Democrat
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