The number of this season’s confirmed influenza-related deaths in California has more than doubled in the past week, the state's Department of Public Health announced Friday.
So far, there have been 95 confirmed flu-related deaths in California, up 50 since health officials released figures last week, Dr. Ron Chapman, state health officer and director of the CDPH, said. Three children have died from the flu in California and all 95 victims were under the age of 65, Chapman said.
There are an additional 51 deaths -- not yet confirmed to be flu-related -- under investigation.
By this time last year, nine influenza fatalities had been confirmed. A total of 106 deaths were reported in the 2012-13 flu season.
“The increasing number of influenza-related deaths points to the severity of this flu season,” Chapman said. “Vaccination is so important, because it continues to be the best defense against the flu.”
The 95 confirmed deaths have been reported in major counties across the state, including these in Southern California:
- Long Beach
- Los Angeles
- San Bernardino
- San Diego
Sacramento recorded the most fatalities with 10, but in the southern part of the state, Los Angeles and San Bernardino also reported high numbers of eight and seven, respectively.
Riverside called in the most recent child fatality, and others were noted in San Mateo and Los Angeles counties, according to health officials. All children were under 10 years of age.
For those individuals whose vaccination statuses were reported, 80 percent were not vaccinated and 20 percent were, health officials said.
H1N1, also known as “swine flu,” is still the predominant strain, CDPH said. Counties across the state and the nation have reported an increase in the number of cases, particularly of the H1N1 virus that caused a worldwide pandemic in 2009.
As in the 2009-10 flu season, health officials said the H1N1 strain seems to affect a younger population that might not feel the need to receive an annual flu shot.
The reporting period for the most recent figures ended Jan. 18, meaning that deaths and flu cases confirmed since that date have not been accounted for and that county numbers might differ from state numbers because of a lag in confirming cases.
New flu cases and hospitalizations remain at a level considered wide-spread by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and exceed expected levels for this year, though they have decreased over the previous week, according to health officials.
With at least two months left in the flu season, based on the average duration of flu activity determined by the CDC, California health officials said that there is no dearth of antivirals or flu vaccines and that it’s not too late to get vaccinated.
Pregnant women, the elderly and infants are at the highest risk and should contact physicians immediately to receive the most effective treatment, Chapman said.
To curtail the spread of germs, the doctor recommended the following:
- limiting contact with others
- covering your nose and mouth
- washing hands with soap and water
- avoiding the touching of eyes, nose and mouth.
Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue. For a map of where to get the flu vaccine in your area, click here.