Flu tapers off before peak season, health officials say

Because influenza is not a reportable disease, it's difficult to get an accurate picture of how widespread it may be in Mohave County.

"We have seen a decline in the reporting of flu cases," said Christy Bronston, director of nursing with the Mohave County Department of Public Health.

"We know it's circulating and expect to see a decline in case numbers because providers don't normally report it."

Flu season runs from October through April in Arizona, peaking between December and February, Bronston said.

"In the early part of the season we had a number of people come into our emergency room with flu-like symptoms and then it tapered off," said Ryan Kennedy, executive director of community services at Kingman Regional Medical Center.

"We cooperate with all CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) directives regarding communicable diseases and have on-going communication with the county health department."

Local supplies of flu vaccine have long been exhausted for the current season.

For the most part the vaccine has afforded protection from Type A flu, the most common, Bronston said.

Some care providers serve as "sentinel sites" and report flu-like symptoms to the county health department, she added.

Nasal swabs might then be taken of a patient to give a definitive diagnosis of the flu.

"The purpose of asking providers to report what they have seen is to find out what type is circulating and once it's identified to ensure we have the vaccine to cover it," Bronston said.

"Reporting is mainly for surveillance purposes."

Bronston said the best defense against spreading the flu for people who failed to get vaccinated in the fall is to cover the mouth when coughing or sneezing, wash hands frequently and try to stay at home if ill.

Symptoms of the flu include body aches, most often in the back, a fever that may come on abruptly, sore throat and a non-productive cough.