First flu death of the season reported in Santa Barbara County

2014-01-14T10:03:00Z 2014-01-14T10:09:49Z First flu death of the season reported in Santa Barbara CountyStaff report Santa Maria Times
January 14, 2014 10:03 am  • 

A Santa Barbara woman in her 20s has died from complications of influenza, according to Santa Barbara County public health officials.

The woman, who died last week, did not receive an influenza vaccine this season, health officials added. She is the first influenza death reported in the county this season.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older should be immunized.

Influenza viruses are spread when a person who has influenza coughs, sneezes or touches a surface handled by others. The flu can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications in many people, health officials say.

It is estimated that more than 200,000 people are hospitalized, which includes 20,000 children under the age of 5 each year for the flu.

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(1) Comments

  1. Geof Bard Collaborative Hygiene Initiative
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    Geof Bard Collaborative Hygiene Initiative - January 15, 2014 9:54 am
    Our hearts go out to the family and friends of this young victim of
    influenza. She is a victim like the millions who have over the past
    century succumbed to the manifold variants of this ubiquitous

    Supervisor Lavagnino has been a staunch supporter of influenza vaccination and deserves gratitude for his efforts in this regard. In particular, he was I believe instrumental in bring flu shots to veterans at the Stand Down and he even went so far as to himself "take the jab" at an open public meeting of the Board of Supervisors. Bravo!

    But sadly, this young person declined to take precautions and, as is too often the case, developed lethal complications. She is a victim of a very devious microbe which can be deceptively unserious or brutal almost to the point of bubonic plage. Yetm she is as much a victim of those who make spuriouscontentions challenging the efficacy of vaccination,spread
    dysinformation minimizing the dangers of influenza..

    Over a year ago, I formed the Cough Hygiene Initiative to promulgate
    disease prevention training to the un - housed and those who work with
    them, Although there was significant support from sitting and former
    elected officials, medical experts and faith leaders,an influential faction of
    homelessness professionals were more interested in suppressing awareness
    of the infectious disease problem than in prevention. They were protecting staff morale and the image of their client base at the expense of truth, health and safety.. As a result, my
    initially well received presentations were banned from the Freedom
    Warming Center. A coterie of liberal Protestant ministers in the
    downtown corridor did absolutely nothing to support a negotiated
    settlement, leaving all decisions about the warming center to the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara.

    But graciously, Project HEAL of the Interfaith Initiative of Santa
    Barbara welcomed me with open arms just as I was confronted with factionalism. "Health Empowerment And Love" allowed me to make monthly update presentations to the monthly houseless Meet
    and Greet.

    We also created a pilot incentive program, donating headlamps to those
    homeless who collaborated in the Cough Hygiene project. This was very popular and led to an successful of the county health nurse to come and give flu
    shots to the homeless at our Meet and Greet.

    The national flu epidemic just barely missed California last year but 47 states were severely impacted. I suppose my critics were concerned that the warming centers, operated by USSB, would be embarassed if their failure to promote hygiene and flu awareness created an outbreak at their homeless shelter system. Undoubtedly, they
    breathed a collective sigh of relief when the epidemic passed us by, and I too am glad that we were spared. But unfortunately, last spring the news came out
    that the homeless mission in downtown LA was ground zero for an alarming outbreak
    of tuberculosis.

    It was a unique strain, and in view of the rising global problem of Multi Drug Resistance and Extremely Drug Resistant Tuberculosis, the Center for Disease Control
    dispatched a team of investigators. To my disappointment, the whole matter was then
    promptly swept under the rug.

    Over the summer, it also came to light that
    whooping cough was skyrocketing, especially in San Luis Obispo, as many parents
    opted out of vaccination. Undoubtedly,, North Santa Barbara County is in jeopardy if SLO is having this kind of problem.

    Then, in August, national media put the spotlight on a measles outbreak in a Texas fundamentalist church whose pastors had discouraged vaccination. Measles, which can be lethal in children, is often underestimated, and, sadly, a grossly misinformed
    movement is still active which erroneously blames the MMR vaccine for
    childhood autism. That claim has been thoroughly debunked, but some
    people thrive on suspicion and a selfish preference that
    OTHER people vaccinate so that they can benefit from collective immunity
    (so called "herd immunity"). To their credit, Kenneth Copeland Ministries reversed their posture and promptly instituted a vaccine drive in their Sunday service. I have yet to see a similar turnaround however in the churches in South County which have been so reluctant to take issue with the Unitarian managers of the Freedom Warming Center. This is despite frequent pleas in private and at public comment before the Board of Supervisors., I even contacted the bishops and yet have had no suitable response from the Methodist and Episcopalian and ELC ministers who seem to think that putting fifty homeless people in one room at the height of flu season without a serious cough hygiene policy is above criticism.

    Now, sadly, Santa Barbara is now no longer graced with lucky
    exceptionalism. The problem is not limited to flu.

    The meningitis B outbreakat UCSB is alarming because it
    represents a new form of activity on the part of meningococcus.
    Outbreaks are rare for men B, and the fact that there are now two
    concurrent outbreaks is puzzling. And California is clearly not
    experiencing an exemption from the current seasonal pandH1N1. Unlike
    many other forms of influenza A, this residual variant of the 2009
    pandemic virus afflicts young and middle aged adults.

    No one deserves to have their lives cut short, and nothing we can do
    removes the bite of tragedy in the life of the afflicted and those close
    to her. But a life lived can be wasted if those of us lucky enough to
    continue to enjoy life's blessings fail to take pause and, as a measure
    of respect for the life of the departed, consider what lesson is offered
    in the truncated biography of the deceased. Clearly, the impending
    seasonal flu season which is now upon us is cause for concern, more so
    than perhaps we have recognized. It saddens us when the young die from
    preventable diseases, as happens every day around the world, but it is
    particularly uneccessary in an advanced industrial country and in an
    affluent community such as Santa Barbara.

    Please reconsider, if you have not gotten your flu shot yet, and, if
    you have, please talk to your friends, family and neighbors. There is no
    reason for anyone not to take "the jab" lacking extenuating medical
    reasons, and there are many people in the community who are especially
    vulnerable. In other words, even if one thinks that they are strong and
    healthy and enough of a gambler to take their chances with the flu, it
    is not fair to go around town shedding virus, coughing and sneezing,
    when the flu which does not bother you so much might spread to others
    for whom it might be life threatening.

    If you are sick with influenza-like illness, please take a sick day.
    And cough properly into your sleeve or a towel and wash your hands
    frequently. We teach this in K-12, and they get it. We teach this at
    HEAL, and the homeless get it. Let's aim for zero additional mortality
    from influenza this winter, please.

    Geof Bard
    Collaborative Hygiene Initiative/formerly
    Cough Hygiene Initiative
    Alliance to Teach Everyone About Community Health

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