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Number of flu cases in Riverside County this season is slightly above average from last 10 years

INFLUENZA VACCINE

Flu season is hitting hard around the country, including right here in parts of California.

Here in Riverside County, the number of cases is only slightly above average when compared to the past 10 years, according to county health officials.

At Loma Linda University Medical Center, they've set up an overflow tent as a waiting room for influenza patients. One doctor says over the past weeks the number of cases has doubled.

Here in the Coachella, Eisenhower Health in Rancho Mirage has reported their numbers are up slightly compared to last season and the past decade.

"I think it is a typical flu season, we're starting to peak here in the valley .. seeing more and more cases here in the emergency department," said Dr. Euthym Kontaxis, who runs the emergency department at Eisenhower Health.

Statewide and around the country, there is greater cause for concern.

According to the California Department of Public Health, the number of deaths in California attributed to the flu so far this season is 70, compared to 52 at this point during last year's flu season.

Four of those deaths this season occurred in Riverside County.

"We're seeing a mixture of influenza A and B .. which is not unusual. It is not just one strain. There are several out there," Dr. Kontaxis said.

Dr. Kontaxis says of the flu patients at Eisenhower that he has spoken with when he asks they tell him they did not get the flu shot. He strongly recommends the shot and says it's not too late to get it. The flu season typically runs into April.

"I think we had an interview three months ago where I recommended everybody get the flu shot. I think 30 percent of the people did," Dr. Kontaxis said.

Palm Springs resident Michelle Vargas is among those who does not get the flu shot.

"Last time I got the flu is when my oldest, he is 18, was about two years old," Vargas said.

Dr. Kontaxis says one thing you can do to protect yourself is wear a mask, especially if you are going to a crowded public place. If you are sick and must go out, he says you should wear one.

Other steps to protect yourself include frequent hand washing, drink plenty of fluids, and get proper rest.

If you are generally in good health and think you might have the flu, Dr. Kontaxis says it's best to stay home for treatment and not go to the ER or urgent care.

Infants, the elderly, and others who might have chronic or underlying health issues, Dr. Kontaxis recommends seeing a professional.

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Tom Tucker

Tom Tucker is a veteran broadcast journalist with nearly 20 years of experience. Learn more about Tom here.

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