If a bunch of your coworkers or classmates called in sick this past week, it likely wasn’t holiday hooky.
"People aren’t imagining things; there is a lot going around," said David Engelthaler, state epidemiologist.
The influenza virus season is ramping up toward an early peak in late January or early February, and there’s "a backdrop of regular winter illnesses," hitting the Valley all at the same time.
"We’re definitely seeing a steep increase in cases" of the flu, he said. "Arizona and California are the hardest hit states right now. We’ll probably peak before the rest of the country."
More than 300 of Maricopa County’s 350 confirmed flu cases this year were reported in the last two weeks.
Illnesses such as bronchitis, strep throat, croup, common colds, rhinovirus and respiratory syncytial virus have also descended on the state with recent cold weather. Desert dwellers accustomed to the sunshine outside are staying in, and getting sick.
"People spend more time indoors, more time in close quarters and more time sharing air," Engelthaler said.
Stop the illness
• Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
• Wash your hands frequently, whether you’re sick or not.
• Stay home from work or school if sick.
• It’s not too late to get a flu shot — flu season will likely last for several more months, possibly until April, so a vaccination could protect you through spring. Those older than 65 with chronic respiratory trouble should also get a pneumonia vaccination.
Source: State epidemiologist