Maricopa flu season in full blast

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At Maricopa’s Walgreens the number of flu shots given this week is nearly fives times greater than in all of January last year.

“We usually give 10-15 shots in January and I’ve already given 70 this week,” Walgreens pharmacy manager Ron Kassees said Thursday.

At Banner Health Center, pediatrician Dr. Anne Welch said she and other doctors are “noticing that symptoms are lasting longer than the usual cold, often a week or more. We encourage all of our patients to get the flu vaccine and offer it for our established patients.”

Maricopa is mirroring the national, state and county flu experience.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, flu season is spiking early in the state.

ADHS reports that although Arizona usually sees the flu spike in February or March, it can peak at any time. Approximately 1,000 cases out of nearly 2,200 reported this season were reported last week.

Flu has been reported in 14 of 15 counties and officials with the state health department said doctor visits for flu or flu-like illnesses have been increasing during the last few weeks.

The amount of flu activity was officially categorized as “widespread” this week, the highest category possible.

“Technically speaking, influenza is a largely wintertime event in North America,” said Heather Murphy, Pinal County spokeswoman. This year, however, “the spike began in the last week of December.”

Another factor to consider, Murphy said, is that “the statistics are always lower than the total number of cases.”

One of the best preventions against the flu is a vaccine.

Murphy said the Pinal County Public Health Clinic in Maricopa, 41600 W Smith-Enke Road, has administered 223 doses of the vaccine since it began offering them in October.

Vaccines are available for only $15 from the clinic. At Walgreens the cost is $31.99 if insurance doesn’t pay.

Welch, of Banner Health, said she is seeing many young patients with flu-like symptoms of high fevers, upper respiratory symptoms like runny nose, cough, and sore throat, and in some cases nausea and vomiting.