The 2014-15 flu season is off to a calm start, with minimal flu-related symptoms seen around the county in recent weeks. But there are still months to go before the season ends.
Of the 1,582 patients who went to Santa Barbara County Public Health Centers around the county over the last two weeks or sought care at Westmont College or Cate School, 42, or 2.6 percent, showed flu-like symptoms.
Local hospitals also found little to alarm physicians in the same period after using rapid tests to see whether 35 patients had the flu. So far, none of those tests have come back positive.
The flu season generally runs from late September to mid-May and has claimed some lives in years past, though county health and other care providers try to avoid those losses.
There have not been any flu-related deaths as of yet this season, and since the season began in late September, 26 specimens have been sent to the public health lab. All but one came back negative for the flu.
In 2013, three people in the county died from the flu, according county records. That was up from one death in 2012, two deaths in 2011 and one death in 2010. However, nothing has come close in recent years to the 10 flu-related deaths seen in the county in 2009 when H1N1 hit.
But Public Health officer Dr. Charity Thoman took an extra step to protect the public this year. She issued influenza vaccination orders for health-care workers at area hospitals and for public health-care workers. The orders boiled down to this: Either workers get vaccinated or they don a mask for the coming months.
“All of the hospitals have their own policies,” said Thoman earlier in the flu season. “This just helps to strengthen the policies they already have in place. In fact, we’re going to make it a legal requirement.”