AirTalk for January 21, 2013

Critical time for flu bug in California

Andrea Wang/KPCC

CVS Pharmacist Jill Kolin administers a flu shot to KPCC's morning anchor Steve Julian. Why so serious?

The worst flu in four years has hit California. The state Department of Public Health says five people under the age of 65 have been killed by influenza-related illnesses. A 22-year-old man and a 4-year-old girl who died earlier this month in Riverside county both tested positive for the virus - though the exact cause is not yet confirmed.

Officials say the flu is spreading rapidly, with the outbreak expected to peak in California next month. Federal officials say 48 states are reporting widespread flu activity. The severity of this year’s flu has prompted vaccine makers to create new and stronger immunizations that would protect against different strains of influenza. Current vaccines only protect from three kinds of flu, which this year is reportedly only 62 percent effective.

Should you get a flu shot? How many times a day should you wash your hands to stay reasonably safe? Is it silly or effective to wear surgical masks in public places? How can people die from a disease as common as the flu in 2013? And how do researchers create new vaccines to protect us from next year’s flu bug?

Guests:

Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Director, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health

Shannon Pettypiece, Bloomberg News Healthcare Correspondent


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